Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Sunday, October 2, 2016 at 9:05 PM
The Washington Huskies came into the season facing expectations that they would be a contender for the Pac-12 title and a spot in the College Football Playoff. On Friday night in front of an ESPN audience, head coach Chris Peterson’s team showed they’re ready to take all comers. Washington smashed Stanford 44-6, took control of the Pac-12 North and likely shattered the Heisman dream of Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey.
Beating Stanford by 38 points as a (-3.5) home favorite was impressive enough. What was more impressive was the manner in which Washington did it. Stanford has built its reputation over the last several years as a physical in-the-trenches team. The Huskies outrushed them 214-29, completely shutting down the versatile McCaffrey in the process. Stanford’s proud rushing attack averaged less than one yard per carry. The defensive control of the game was par for the course. Washington is only giving up an average of 12 points per game.
In the meantime, Peterson’s offense is hitting on all cylinders. They’re averaging 45 points per game, and even with the defensive dominance are still going Over on the totals line. The Huskies have played 4-0 to the Over this season (one victory was a non-board game over Portland State). Quarterback Jake Browning was locked in against Stanford, going 15/21 for 210 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
It hasn’t all been perfect for Huskie bettors. They failed to cover in a 35-28 win over Arizona as a (-17) favorite. The size of that line, against a perennial bowl team under Rich Rodriguez, indicates that it’s going to be careful to monitor Vegas enthusiasm for Washington. It’s not hard to envision a day when the market prices them beyond their capacity to deliver. Thus far though, the Huskies are still 3-1 ATS.
The question now is whether Washington is national championship-caliber. They’re a 15-1 shot to win it all, a number that’s tied for sixth-best in the country. To put that in perspective, Washington last won a national championship 25 years ago and last got close in 2000. Even allowing for the obvious progress made by Peterson during his tenure in Seattle, and even acknowledging the havoc they wreaked on Stanford on Friday night, that’s a big leap to make in a sport where the bluebloods tend to end up winning in the end.
It’s going to important to keep the Huskies under a close microscope, as the public enthusiasm continues to build. A big test awaits at Oregon on Saturday and if Washington clears that game, the only other notable road test is Utah. Evaluate Washington closely—not to determine if they’re for real. It’s been established they are. But to decide how many points you’ll be comfortable giving in the games ahead where they’ll be a big favorite.