Expectations, as I have said before, are a bitch.
They warp your mind and confuse your soul. They prevent you from truly seeing what is happening right in front of your goddamn face. When you perceive something relative to your expectations, you’re really looking at the distorted shadow of something; like trying to see morning traffic through a windshield that hasn’t fully defogged yet.
Now, it’s okay to have expectations. In fact, it’s perfectly normal and happens to everyone around this time of year. Expectations are formed after we experience things and formulate takes. In fact, the source of all takes is just how our expectations make sense of what happens around us. And no, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for your terrible burger take.
The expectations for the Washington Huskies going into this season were, without a doubt, very high. They debuted in the preseason AP Top 25 poll at #6, a supposed contender for the College Football Playoff and the clear cream of the Pac-12 crop. Beat Auburn (then #9) in Atlanta in the opener, and 12-0 (and crucially, potentially avoiding Alabama in a semifinal) was a distinct possibility.
Well, safe to say, that all didn’t happen. The team we thought we had then was a dynamic offense headlined by the dual senior leadership of Jake Browning (whom you should leave the hell alone) and Myles Gaskin (who is the best-but-not-most-talented running back the Huskies have ever had). Three excruciating losses to Auburn, Oregon and California were made possible by questionable play-calling, horrendous red-zone execution and two absolutely baffling coaching decisions that we probably will never get a good explanation for.
And so, here we are. Your 2018 Washington Huskies are sitting at 9-3 in late November, wondering what might have been as they prepare for the …*checks notes*… Pac-12 Conference Championship Game? Wait, who put that in there? Well, shit…rewrite.
The Huskies have been a good team this entire time, albeit a distinctly flawed one. If you’ve been following the team’s season-long S&P+ profile (in this house we use S&P+) then you know what kind of team this is: one that is efficient — but not very explosive — on offense; one that struggles to score points (especially touchdowns) when the field shortens in the red zone; one that gives up a lot of short yardage plays, but doesn’t give up points, but also doesn’t create negative plays like turnovers, sacks and TFLs; one that has an atrocious special teams unit that consistently puts the defense in bad field position.
That’s who the Huskies are and that’s okay, because they’re one win away from going to the damn Rose Bowl.
The only thing standing in their way is a Utah Utes team that has also shifted expectations throughout the season. Their defense (particularly their run defense) is especially good, while their offense had been much maligned until injuries to their quarterback and running back caused an upward shift in their production. In the chart below, I’ve highlighted the head-to-head matchups between the Utes and the Huskies. The offensive/defense stats are from the Utes’ perspective, so the Huskies rank is their opposite unit going up against Utah’s unit.
|Stat||Utah Rank||Washington Rank||Edge|
|Off Success %||38th||36th||Even|
|Off Margin Eff||44th||26th||Solid Washington|
|Margin Explo||79th||4th||Heavy Washington|
|Avg. Field Pos For||41st||53rd||Slight Utah|
|Avg. Field Pos Vs.||56th||101st||Heavy Utah|
|Finishing Drives For||60th||10th||Solid Washington|
|Finishing Drives Vs.||56th||93rd||Solid Utah|
|Expected TO Marg||55th||6th||Solid Washington|
|Def Success %||16th||25th||Slight Utah|
|Def Marg Eff||16th||28th||Slight Utah|
|Def Explosive Allow||55th||69th||Slight Utah|
|Def Margin Explos||28th||56th||Solid Utah|
|Off Rush Efficiency||20th||10th||Slight Washington|
|Off Rush Explos||48th||17th||Solid Washington|
|Off Stuffed Rate||51st||96th||Solid Utah|
|Def Rush Eff||11th||34th||Solid Utah|
|Def Rush Explos||20th||79th||Heavy Utah|
|Def Stuffed Rate||5th||42nd||Solid Utah|
|Off Passing Eff||43rd||22nd||Solid Washington|
|Off Passing Explos||86th||1st||Heavy Washington|
|Off Sack Rate||95th||113th||Slight Utah|
|Def Pass Eff||45th||17th||Solid Washington|
|Def Pass Explos||33rd||34th||Heavy Washington|
|Def Sack Rate||34th||68th||Solid Utah|
|FG Value||11th||96th||Heavy Utah|
|Utah Kickoffs||21st||61st||Solid Utah|
|Utah Punts||27th||108th||Heavy Utah|
|Washington Kickoffs||98th||105th||Heavy Utah|
|Washington Punts||31st||100th||Heavy Utah|
The basic takeaway from the matchup is this: Utah’s defense is better than Washington’s offense and Washington’s defense is better than Utah’s offense but Washington’s offense is closer to Utah’s defense than Utah’s offense is to Washington’s defense. Also, the Huskies’ special teams are fucking dreadful and will absolutely rear its ugly head in this game. This has the makings of a low-scoring, offensively boring affair, similar to the earlier matchup in Salt Lake City. Of course, bone-head plays made things really interesting in that one but I think the special teams unit and not Jake Browning (whom you should leave the hell alone) will be the source of that #Pac12AfterDark craziness.
This is not the easiest match up for the Huskies but one they can surely win. Ah, shit, there I go again with my expectations.
I expect to see you in Pasadena.
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