College Game Day crew back in Seattle

On Friday the media had a chance to speak to three members of the ESPN College Game Day crew - Rece Davis, Kirk Herbreit and Desmond Howard - who are back in Seattle for the second time. What do they think of the No. 4 Washington Huskies? What do they think are the keys to the game between No. 20 USC and UW?

Rece Davis

Did you think one of the GameDay matchups would be in Seattle this year? “I thought that maybe it was possible. I’ll be honest, I thought they were a year away. Thought they were still young and maybe next year would be there year. They’ve proven me wrong. Either that or they’ve proven to be extremely precocious, but this is a terrific team and a great setting College GameDay. We’re really excited about Saturday morning.”

On what to expect tomorrow from the Washington GameDay crowd “Yeah, it’s going to be rowdy and people are going to be excited. I love coming to the west coast because you have to be really dedicated and a fervent fan to show up before the sun rises. We had a full house of people at Utah both last year and a couple weeks ago when we were there. It’s going to be a tremendous scene. This is one of the most beautiful campuses you’ll ever see and we have a great setting right there our by Red Square and it’s really, really cool.”

On the perception of the PAC-12 nationally “I don’t know if it has - I think Stanford and Oregon have earned a great deal of respect over the past several years. What’s happened this year is that those two teams, who have combined to win the last seven conference titles, are down. USC started slowly but they are playing very well right now. And you have Colorado, which is running, trying to make a worst to first story. You have Washington, which has great tradition but really hasn’t been at the top, at least among the elite, in several years. You have Colorado going worst to first. You have a couple of teams that were disappointing. I think that the perception is that league wide it’s a little bit down. But I do think that most people believe that Washington is an excellent team. Washington comes down, I think when people are evaluating them in the old best versus most deserving argument. That’s why I think that they do put themselves in harms way if they’re not perfect because of the non-conference schedule. Some of that is offset by the fact they play nine non-conference games and if they win they’ll play a conference championship game. That will mitigate some of it. I think the perception, and some of the metrics show that the league is down a little bit because you have a couple of typical stalwarts of the league who are underperforming a little bit, but I don’t think that people think Washington is not capable as a result of that. I think that they’re looked at as a team that hasn’t been fully tested yet, but as I mentioned those tests start on Saturday with their remaining schedule.”

Should more weight be given to the undefeated teams given the number of two loss teams? “I’m a best guy as opposed to most deserving. i always will go with the best. Some of that is subjective. I value strength of schedule. I value how you played against your competition. Did you dominate them? Did you get one lucky bounce ,which everyone is entitled to, or did you get four? IF you got four then maybe I don’t think you’re quite as good as your record. I would always err on the side of going with the teams perceived to be the best. Some of that is reflected by what type of schedule you play. Because of that I think it’s incumbent on Washington, they really need to stay undefeated. But because of those two loss teams, if you start having three conferences with two loss champions, you have upsets in conference championship games, then certainly I think a one loss PAC-12 champion Washington would be most deserving of making the playoff.”

What are you looking for in tomorrow’s game? “I think the biggest thing is how will Sam Darnold play against Washington’s defense. I think we have a pretty good idea that Washington’s offense will be productive. Darnold has been terrific. There were some moments against Oregon last week where they got a little more complex on him and made him hesitate just a little bit. He said he was going to watch film earlier this week to try to prepare for Washington and try to speed up that decision making. To me that’s the big key. can USC run a little bit? Can Darnold stay out of mistakes, which he’s done a brilliant job of up to this point, but I don’t know that outside - he didn’t play a lot against Alabama - but outside of Alabama I’m not sure he’s seen anything on defense quite like he’s going to have waiting inside of Husky Stadium on Saturday.”

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Kirk Herbstreit

On Huskies in the top four “I was surprised when the first rankings came out and Washington wasn’t at four. But then again we can sit there and get bent out of shape about week one or week twos rankings. We all know if Washington wins out no matter what anybody really says Washington is going to be in the playoff. It’s a give to me. I don’t think they can afford to lose a game. Then they’re on the outside looking in, even if they end up winning the PAC-12.”

On Chris Petersen “Freak. He’s the best. When he was doing it at Boise we always kind of marveled at what he was doing with a smaller program and we always hoped he would go; we loved Boise but we always hoped he would go to a big time program just to see if he could take that same blue print. There was always thought maybe he would go to USC or maybe he’ll go wherever. Of course he ends up in Seattle, which has great history, but it’s been so long since the Huskies have been up in the mix. I just thought it was a matter of time until he got them going. I didn’t know it would be this fast. The way he’s doing it, the quarterback play that he has going right now, it’s incredible. I would put him up in the top three or four coaches in the country, whether he’s at Boise State or here at Washington. I don’t know how he does it but he is as consistent as anybody.”

Does USC being ranked change the perception of this game? “I think that’s a good point. I think it’s amazing, you guys would be frustrated. You get east of the Rockies and because the games are 10:30 (P.M.) eastern, a lot of times the fans in the Big 10 and the SEC and the Big 12, they really don thane an appreciation for the PAC-12, just being very candid. When you’re not playing in a highly viewed or highly ranked opponent it just kind of gets lost in the mix. If we took a poll of not just fans but media people that are east of the Rockies ‘how many times have you watched Washington play from the beginning of the year to the end of the year?’ You might here somebody say ‘I saw them play half of a game. Nobody sees them. It really hurts their perception when they’re trying to say they’re one of the best teams in the country and now they get a big time name opponent, USC, who’s up in the top 20 and they have a chance to take care of them.”

Do you think UW can compete with the other top four teams? “For sure based on the film I watch and watching Clemson, watching Ohio State, watching Michigan, watching Alabama. The quarterback right now (Jake Browning), his play is good as anybodies. He’s not turning the ball over. They have great skill on the perimeter. They can run the football with (Myles) Gaskin. Their defense with the corner play that they have it allows them to be very, very aggressive with what they do. They have big bodies on the front line so it’s hard to run the ball in the interior on them. Their linebacker play is exceptional. I would love to see them on the field with an Alabama or with an Ohio State or a Michigan just because I don’t think they take a back seat athletically. Again, they have to finish strong here and get it done.”

What do you want to see from this matchup? “I want to see how Sam Darnold plays in this setting. he’s trending right now as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the country. I want to see how he plays in that environment with that crowd and that defense, to see if he can stay with Jake Browning. It’s going to take that kind of performance to me to be able to be competitive.”

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Desmond Howard

Do you think Washington has to win out to make the playoffs? “There are so many moving parts that are involved in teams making the playoffs. I don’t think you could make a definitive statement one way or another. That’s what people try to do week in and week out, then we get these surprises. I don’t know if you can make a definitive statement. I think they control their own destiny. I really do. I don’t know if they suffer a loss if they’re completely out of it. Not sure. Depends on what else happens to teams in front of them too?”

What was your reaction when UW moved to number four? “It made perfect sense. Yeah, I mean (Texas) A&M lost. To me it just made sense. I don’t see why we even discuss it. They were up under A&M, correct? A&M lost and they move up. They didn’t do anything to hurt themselves against Cal?”

Do you think UW is the fourth best team in the country? “I think that they’re where they belong.”

Can UW hang with Alabama, Michigan, and Clemson? “They can hang with them. That doesn’t mean they’re going to beat them, but they can hang with all of them. All those teams can play against each other and hang with each other. I don’t think there’s a strong, dominant team. I mean, yeah, all of them can hang with each other.”

On the keys to the game tomorrow “The keys for USC is they can’t turn the ball over. They have to play a clean game. They have to stop the run. I know John Ross and (Jake) Browning, those guys are having a fantastic year throw the air, but they still have to stop the run. It all starts with the running game.”

On the GameDay experience at UW in 2013 “It was very dark, very dark when we started. This is a heck of a crowd. They really get into it. They love their Huskies. It was exciting. It was fun.”

Did the Utah-UW game alter your perception of the PAC-12? “The Utah game didn’t alter it. The perennial powerhouses are weak this year and some people they didn’t expect to be great are strong this year. That happens throughout college football, so it’s not a big deal.”

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