A 2-4 Record But Rated No. 41

University of Washington football fans came up on the short end of the stick Saturday (10-13-07) when the Arizona State Sun Devils blew into Seattle and extended their winning streak to 7 with a 44-20 second half victory.

The Sun Devils outscored Washington in the third quarter 21-0 and in the second half 31-3, and it is a good thing for ASU because if the game had ended at the half, Washington would have won 17-13.

Therein lies the challenge of the youthful, inexperienced Washington Huskies: they played a terrible 3rd quarter and have not yet learned how to win games.

This statistic would not mean much unless you know that:
- Washington led then No. 10-ranked Ohio State 7-3 at the half and lost 33-14 in its 3rd game.
- Washington was tied with then No. 27-rated UCLA 10-10 at the half and lost 44-31 in its 4th game.
- Washington led then No. 1-ranked Southern Cal 17-14 at the half and lost 27-24 in its 5th game.
- Washington led then No. 12-ranked Arizona State 17-13 at the half and lost 44-20 in its 6th game.

You better believe that Sun Devil Coach Dennis Erickson was more than sweating bullets after watching redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Locker scamper for a 32-yard touchdown run with 4:11 to go in the first half, giving Washington its 17-13 lead.

Do Husky fans realize that if each of these games ended at the half, Washington's record would be 5-0-1 rather than 2-4?

That doesn't mean squat, but it's interesting to ponder if only for a moment, to figure out if we can somehow make the games last 30 minutes instead of 60.

Washington would have an unbeaten record after polishing off Syracuse 42-12 in an away game and upsetting then No. 22-ranked Boise State 24-10 in its first two games.

Please, do not be sophomoric (as in sometimes moronic) and remind me that only the final score counts. To do so would ignore the point I am making.

You could with fairness make the point that the Huskies have been tripping over themselves coming out the locker room to start the second half of their last 4 games.

Why this has been happening leaves Coach Ty Willingham clueless. He is quoted in the Tacoma News Tribune (10-14-07 edition) as saying, "It's obviously a difficult thing to talk about because I don't have a solution to it."

Willingham, a man of heretofore impeccable standards and integrity, is also honest. Less than 1% of all college football coaches would not publicly repeat Willingham's admission.

One thing is for sure: Whatever Willingham and his coaching staff members are saying or not saying to Husky players at halftime, it is not working worth a crap and needs to be changed.

Do not tell me that the same Husky players who might play above their head with guts and enthusiasm in the first half go brain dead and unfeeling during the second half. I would love to be a bee on the wall in Washington's locker room at halftime and see what—if any—stinging comments are made.

As a certified Monday morning quarterback and coach, this would be the first words out of my mouth at halftime during the Arizona State game:

"Let me be the first to congratulate you on a phenomenal first half. Arizona State made some mistakes in the first half and we did too, but you are leading the unbeaten and No. 12-ranked team in the country at halftime, 17-13.

"Some people would say that the Sun Devils have more talent on their team than we do, but we lead at the half, 17-13.

"Others would say that the Sun Devils have an unbeaten record and our record is 2-3, but we lead at the half, 17-13.

"Still others would say that the Sun Devils are ranked No. 12 in the country and since we are not ranked in the Top 25, they will win this game, but we lead at the half, 17-13.

"Now, we are going to quickly hand everyone a slip of paper and a pen, and by secret ballot I want you to quickly write down which player you think is the leader of this team."

After the ballots are immediately collected and Jake Locker's name is on every ballot or almost every ballot, I would say this:

"Jake, you may be a redshirt freshman but your teammates believe you are the leader of the Washington Husky football team.

"I want you, Jake, to get up right now and tell the coaching staff and your fellow teammates why we can win the second half of this game, how we are going to do it, and what it will take to do it."

I would then, as the head coach, sit down, shut up and listen. After Jake is done with whatever he says, I would ask any other player who received a vote as THE team leader to get up and do the same thing.

Let the players convince themselves and believe they can do in the second half what they did in the first half: outscore the opponent. Do that and Washington upsets its opponent.

Now, why is Washington the nation's most statistically incredible team?

1) The Huskies are rated No. 41 in the Sagarin Ratings.
2) Their current record is 2-4.
3) They are rated No. 1 for having played—for the 4th consecutive week—the toughest schedule among all 242 Division I-A and 1-AA teams.
4) There is not another team among Sagarin's first 40 rated teams with less than 4 wins.
5) The next highest rated Sagarin team with only 2 wins is No. 60 North Carolina at 2-5.
6) The Huskies, as Sagarin's 41st best rated team in the nation, are ahead of No. 42 Alabama (5-2), No. 44 Wisconsin (5-2 and ranked No. 5 in the AP Poll just two weeks ago), No. 46 Louisville (4-3), No. 48 Texas A&M (5-2), No. 51 Air Force (5-2), and No. 52 Indiana (5-2). Not too shabby, as the former Opera Man (Adam Sandler) would say on Saturday Night Live.
7) The highest rated team with the same 2-4 record as Washington is Stanford at No. 68. The Cardinal have played the 4th toughest schedule in the country.
8) North Carolina, which has a 2-5 record, is rated No. 60. The Tar Heels have played the 3rd toughest schedule through college football's week 7.

I know, now you wonder who has played the 2nd toughest schedule. It is 1-6 Notre Dame.

I expect the Huskies to lose against Oregon (hopefully not by 53-7 like cross-state rival Washington State) and California. I predicted this two weeks ago on October 3.

I also predicted on October 3 that Washington would beat (in order) Arizona, Stanford, Oregon State, Washington State and Hawaii, finishing the year at 7-6. Hang on, Husky fans, the best is yet to come.
Note: Read more of Ed Bagley's articles at Ed Bagley's Blog

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

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