Do you think it’s a lock that a Pac-12 team make the college football playoffs this year? - “No. I think it’s going to be tough. I said it last year with Stanford: I work for the Pac-12, but when I’m on the set I try to be as honest as I can because I think I owe that to our fans and our viewers. Sometimes I may not say the most popular thing or the thing people want to hear, but the reality of it is, I love college football. I watch college football all over the country.
"We have a lot of parity. Washington could sneak up and beat Stanford, and Washington State could sneak up and beat Washington. All of a sudden Oregon pops out of nowhere. We already know how the scale goes in college football. Most people are not watching the Pac-12. To really make noise, I think we need that dominant team, and unfortunately for our conference we haven’t had that one real dominant team to just dominate. And it’s unfortunate for our conference because I don’t think people give us the respect as a whole when we start talking about our parity because we haven’t stepped out of the conference and beaten the Alabamas and the big-time schools.
"Once we do that and we stop continuing to beat up on each other, I think maybe a one-loss team or a two-loss team may be considered because we stepped out and beat some of the other big teams across the country.”
What’s your general opinion about the state of college football right now? - “It’s interesting. It depends on what angle you’re coming from. From an on-the-field standpoint, unbelievable talent. Best talent everywhere now, that’s the thing. Individual talent.
"What you’re seeing now, I think you’re going to see a shift back to the defense and a shift back to running the football. Ultimately we hang our hats on quarterbacks too much in my opinion. I’m a receiver, but I think we hang our hats on the quarterback position too much.
"Alabama has proven time and time again that they have average to below average quarterbacks in my opinion, yet they still find themselves in the big dance. That’s what you’re going to find here with the defense playing the way they are playing and the running game at Washington.
"I think college football is going to start make that shift back to what football was when we were playing. Unfortunately a lot of schools like to throw the ball. It’s all about the numbers. When fantasy football took over everything became numbers. But football is still played from the line of scrimmage: who has the best offensive line? Who has the best defensive line? You can kind of build the talent around that.
"I think that’s what we’re going to start to see in the future if you want to be part of that four-team playoff and win the National Championship.”
So you think the game is going to go back to being played in a phone booth? - “I think so. We’ve seen it. We’ve seen it in the pros, let’s start there. Now you’re starting to see it in college football.
"You look at Alabama. They are basically the top dawg now and you don’t hear about any of their quarterbacks. You hear about Nick Saban’s defense. They always have a sold running back. And they’ve always got guys up front that can get it done. They lose two defensive linemen this year to the pros and we’re talking about the next guy on the defensive line.
"So what Nick has done is, he’s understood that while you want to go throw the ball 50 times…David Shaw has done the same thing at Stanford. People can’t figure it out. How is Stanford winning? And they aren’t getting five-star guys, but they are building teams. They are building programs and they aren’t falling into the trap of - I need the best quarterback in the country to come in and throw it 35 or 40 times a game to win games. This is football, this is how we win, Stanford has proven it in the Pac-12 and Alabama has proven it across the country.”
Coming back to Washington, do you feel like that’s the blueprint Petersen is using, especially on defense? - “No question. It’s right there in my face. It’s clear as day. You go back and I cover the draft. You get Danny Shelton, Shaq Thompson, Hau’oli Kikaha, Marcus Peters - defensive player of the year, rookie of the year - all these guys were part of a defense that was ranked sixth in the Pac-12. This defense last year was ranked number one in total defense and people are talking about them again. That’s not by chance that it’s just okay…we had a freshman quarterback here.
"Chris is building a program here that I feel like, in the future is going to win a lot of ball games. The defense is solid and gotten better with all those top picks leaving. You’ve got a young quarterback that you develop. It’s not about winning right away. He understands the process. So if I get a true freshman and I put him in there and leave him in there and he’s a good quarterback…I get my running game going and the next 2-3 years they are going to be talking about us. And I think that’s what we’re going to see.
"This year is going to be that next jump and from this point on what Chris is building here we’re going to continue to be talking about the University of Washington finally being one of those teams that will be in that four-team playoff.”
To listen to Part One of our interview with Conway, click on the link below.
To listen to Part Two of our interview with Conway, click on the link below