Washington Huskies prove authenticity, land at No. 4 in CFP, AP polls

Photo: John Martinez Pavliga via Flickr.com

Photo: John Martinez Pavliga via Flickr.com

The Washington Huskies are for real, if you haven’t noticed yet.

After being expected to finish second in the Pac-12 North to Stanford in the conference’s preseason poll, the Huskies have rolled to a 9-0 record (6-0, Pac-12) with only three games left in the year.

They’ve scored signature wins over then-No. 7 Stanford (a 44-6 demolition) and then-No. 17 Utah (a 31-24 classic). They’ve scored at least 31 points in every game this year and at least 59 in three games, two of which were against Pac-12 teams.

That included a 66-27 rout over California this past weekend which solidified their No. 4 ranking.

“The selection committee continues to be impressed with Washington’s consistency,” committee chair Kirby Hocutt said in an article from ESPN.

Hocutt led a panel that decided on the rest of the Top-25 rankings, which look like this:

1. Alabama (9-0)
2. Clemson (9-0)
3. Michigan (9-0)
4. Washington (9-0)
5. Ohio State (8-1)
6. Louisville (8-1)
7. Wisconsin (7-2)
8. Texas A&M (7-2)
9. Auburn (7-2)
10. Penn State (7-2)
11. Oklahoma (7-2)
12. Colorado (7-2)
13. Oklahoma State (7-2)
14. Virginia Tech (7-2)
15. Utah (7-2)
16. West Virginia (7-1)
17. North Carolina (7-2)
18. Florida State (6-3)
19. Nebraska (7-2)
20. USC (6-3)
21. Western Michigan (9-0)
22. Boise State (8-1)
23. Washington State (7-2)
24. LSU (5-3)
25. Arkansas (6-3)

Washington started the season ranked No. 14 despite finishing last season with a 7-6 record, but their consistent margins of victory have helped them steadily climb each week’s polls.

Quarterback Jake Browning has led the Huskies through their undefeated season with outstanding statistics — 2,273 passing yards, 34 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Synced with running back Myles Gaskin’s 952 yards on the ground and eight touchdowns, the Huskies have the No. 1 ranked offense in terms of efficiency in the Power 5.

That being said, finishing the season undefeated would all but guarantee Washington would be the first Pac-12 team to compete in the College Football Playoff since Oregon lost in the 2014 National Championship game.

But the schedule doesn’t get easy for the Huskies as they wrap up their campaign.

This week they will host red-hot No. 20 USC, a team that has won five-straight games after starting the year 1-3 and has scored at least 45 points in each of their last three wins.

After that, Washington hosts Arizona State, a team that has stumbled to a 2-4 Pac-12 record but whom the Huskies haven’t beat since 2001.

Then Washington must visit their rival No. 23 Washington State Cougars in what promises to be a thrilling season finale with multiple playoff implications on the line.

FPI only gives the Huskies a 36.4 percent chance of winning out.

It’s unfortunate, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Huskies fall out of the CFP picture if they lose just one of those games.

No. 5 Ohio State and No. 6 Louisville are both one-loss teams that would love an opportunity at redemption and one of them could find themselves in the top-four if Washington loses.

In the meantime, the Huskies can celebrate a rare Pac-12 recognition that doesn’t include Oregon or Stanford.

Washington hasn’t been ranked in the AP’s top-five since 2000, which was also the last time the team played in a “classic” bowl (the Rose Bowl).

They have every chance to return to a big bowl game this season, and now that they have been ranked as high as they have, all they have to do is win.

Easier said than done, right?

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