Stanford nurses injuries. Washington is healthy. The Cardinal has yet to face Jake Browning, who improves with each week after setting the national high school record for career touchdown passes. The Huskies are a trendy pick of many experts this year. Chris Fetters has been following the Huskies since Don James’ first game. To find middle ground amid the extremes, Opposing Views caught up with the Dawgman.com editor.
- In what area has Washington progressed the most since these teams last met? The Huskies own a more physical/intimidating reputation since Stanford’s 31-14 win, a night the Cardinal was the clear aggressor. How have they improved in this area?
Well, they will have their starting quarterback for this game, which is a big improvement. They are also a year older as a team, and the 2015 team was very young. So having that year under their belt has put them in good stead. I'm not sure the Huskies owned a more physical reputation after that game. I think they always tried to play physical all year. If anything, that physicality was not as consistent as Stanford's, for example. Part of that had to do with having a young team, and especially along the lines.
- Talk about your reactions – both in the aftermath of and a few days removed from – to Washington’s effort against Arizona. Was it a fluke? Were you more impressed by their ability to pull out a game in overtime, or more surprised by the deficiencies – namely, on defense – the Wildcats exposed?
If you are referring to Washington, I don't think it was a fluke. They hadn't won in Tucson for 10 years. They have been extremely poor in the desert of late in general. It was Washington's first road trip, and the step up in competition from their non-conference opponents was noticeable. I don't think Arizona exposed any defensive deficiencies. There's no question it took a few drives for Washington's defense to find its footing, but in the second half the Huskies were very effective defensively. They held the Wildcats to 12 yards in the third quarter. But all credit to Brandon Dawkins. He is a really good athlete that will cause plenty of teams trouble down the road.
- How good is Jake Browning, what other familiar names does he remind you of? For those who don’t know, talk about what he accomplished in high school here in Northern California and what other schools wanted him. If Stanford stops Washington’s ground game like it did UCLA’s (fewer than 100 yards rushing), how likely is the passing game to make a winning difference?
Jake Browning is playing well so far, but he still has so much he can become. In short, he's a true sophomore that's just starting to understand how good he can be. The first name that comes up to me is Jake Plummer. They aren't the most physically gifted athletes, but they are ultimate competitors and their desire to be great can't be measured. In high school (ED: At Folsom High in Sacramento County, where our own Jordan Richards went) he set the national record for most TD passes in a career (229) and was the first high school player to ever throw for 60 or more TDs or for 5,000 yards in three straight seasons. Clearly Washington will need to have balance in order to keep Stanford's defense guessing, so success in the passing game is paramount.
- If Chris Peterson wasn’t the coach, would you vote Washington a Top 10 team? Clearly, they are poised enough to beat inferior opponents, and skilled enough to beat respectable teams (Washington State, OK State) at home/neutral sites. Compare the Huskies’ potential to their current rank.
I'm not sure Washington is a Top 10 team this year regardless of who the head coach is. The mantra for them this whole year is, “Prove It,” and they need to prove it each and every week. It's been 15 years since Washington was ranked in the Top 10, so there's so little to compare this team to recent teams. And many think the program is a year off from genuinely competing for a CFB playoff spot. But they have all the tools to be very, very good this year. But it's going to take very good play, a lot of luck, some great timing, no injuries, and help from the teams ahead of them to get there this year.
- Stanford may boast the best player in college football and the conference’s No. 1 scoring defense, but the Cardinal will need to overcome injuries to its top corners and linebackers lacking in pass coverage (in addition to an inexperienced quarterback). How do Washington’s biggest strengths/weaknesses match up to what Stanford offers?
The biggest strength for Washington right now is that they are a healthy and relatively deep team all the way around. One of the ways Arizona was able to neutralize Washington's defense was to take away that depth by playing so fast the Huskies couldn't substitute the way they would have wanted to. That shouldn't be a problem against Stanford. This is going to be a classic line up-and-beat-the-guy-in-front-of-you game. That's what games against this iteration of Stanford football are all about. You can't hide from it, so you have to take it head on. The positive for Washington right now is that they have the bodies that can collectively push Stanford to the brink.
- A friend of yours, who’s never been to the West Coast, is deciding between Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and San Diego for a vacation. What one destination should they pick, and why?
Obviously time of the year is a big factor. If it's in the summer, there's no better place to visit than Seattle. The weather is beautiful, the scenery is second-to-none, everything downtown can be walked, and it's a foodie's dream. It also depends on what they want to do on their vacation. If they want to hike and camp, there's no better place to travel from than Seattle. An hour from the 206 and you are in some of the most beautiful hiking terrain in the world.
- Who is the biggest living Seattle sports legend? Is there an all-time Husky football player to consider?
With Ken Griffey, Jr. going into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, it would be hard to say anyone but him. Personal favorites would be Edgar Martinez, Felix Hernandez and Fred Couples. As far as Washington, Steve Emtman is one to consider. Warren Moon would be another to consider, especially when you add on his career as a professional player.