What else can be said about the start to the 2007 football season for the Washington Huskies that hasn’t been said already? The Huskies came out and showed that they are a bigger, faster, tougher (both mentally and physically) and more well-coached football team then they have been in recent years. Jake Locker looked every bit as good as the monumental hype surrounding him had suggested, if not better. The offensive line, the most critical component of any football team and the most integral to its success, showed that it could give solid protection for its young quarterback and open up holes in the running game. Louis Rankin showed that he can be the 1,000 yard rusher that the Huskies have missed for so long. The defensive line showed emphatically that it can be a dominant force throughout the season and the leader of the defense.
The season, now that’s the question. The Huskies undoubtedly have the toughest schedule in the country this season and it all gets kicked off with a nice comfortable run through what can only be described as a gauntlet from hell otherwise known as September. The 8th Boise St. (13-0, BCS bowl) at home, 15th Ohio State (12-1, loser of BCS title game to Florida) at home, 22nd on the road to UCLA (picked to finish 2nd behind USC in Pac-10 this season), and then 29th at home vs. the number one team in the land, the devil itself — USC. The rest of the schedule is no cakewalk either with Oregon, California, Arizona St., and Hawaii just to name a few.
So the question arises, floating into the air before you of its own accord, tantalizing you to ask it — Can a schedule this tough be beneficial? And another one follows it — Can it be navigated with success by the Huskies? Well, I’m here to tell you that not only can it be beneficial but the Huskies can and will navigate it with success and be a better team for the foreseeable future because of it.
This team will split the brutal four-game stretch in September (my prediction: winning against Boise St. and Ohio State at home before falling in close games to the LA schools) using it as a catapult to dominate the rest of the schedule where they finish a very solid 9-4. In a year when the Pac-10 conference could not only be the best in the nation but also better than it’s ever been in its history, Washington will emerge as the fourth best team (behind USC, UCLA, and Cal) with a freshman quarterback at its helm.
To answer the question of whether a schedule like this can be beneficial, in other words should a schedule like this be undertaken by an Athletic Director for a program like that of Washington, the answer is yes. If you look at what being successful over the season could do for not only the current Husky players and the fanbase but for future recruiting ability then the answer should be clear to you too. Not only should schedules like these (put together by former AD Barbara Hedges and current AD Todd Turner) be composed but they should be composed with greater frequency across the country. If the enormous upset win accomplished by Appalachian State yesterday over Michigan in Ann Arbor tells you anything its that any game against any opponent can potentially be one that derails your national title hopes. And as the reluctance for forming a schedule with so many tough opponents revolves around this desire to win a national title this is the sticking point. Instead of challenging their teams, coaches and AD’s alike will schedule the so-called cupcakes, paving a much smoother road for their team. But what does that do to get a team ready for its conference schedule? Nothing. And it’s this policy that is now so common which ruins college football.
I challenge all the coaches and athletic directors of major programs out there to challenge themselves with ranked teams rather than a Midwest Louisiana Tech (not sure if that’s even a school) or what have you. Schedule somebody. Challenge your team. Quit being afraid of losing! As yesterday should show you, you can lose to anyone anyways.