The expectations this year for the Seattle Seahawks have captured the attention of most of the sports fans in the Pacific Northwest. They literally blew through their pre-season schedule going 4-0 and did it with ease. Their opening victory against Carolina though was a constant struggle and they did win but I’ve never understood charging the fans full fare for something that doesn’t count. At the end of the season those 4 wins are basically meaningless yet the league and teams still charged full fare and discard the results as soon as they are played. At least at the college level all games played have some sort of meaning.
Of course at the college level there are non-conference games and many are purposely scheduled against lesser opponents with the design of securing the required number of victories to be eligible for a “post” season bowl game of which there are now at least 35 such “civic” events throughout the country. Now in order to be eligible for one of those 70 spots you record just can’t be a losing one and it includes all of your games. Consequently, all 3 of the Huskies “out of conference” games end up having great importance when the season is over.
Of course, the 124 or so college bowl eligible teams try to schedule winnable games just so they can assure themselves of the post season and the extremely valuable 15 extra practices that they, (the NCAA,) allow you to prepare with. Those 15 practices are the equivalent of a winter season or a whole month of extra football. It usually means an extra paycheck for the participating schools. The better the bowl, the better the check and with those extra practices they give the coaches an extra season to further develop their squad and in particular work with their younger players. The system is it is really unfair especially to the teams who don’t qualify because those are the ones who need the extra practices the most. Go figure.
Still, at least the fans have the option of going to the bowl and paying so if they choose. Obviously, it’s all about money and television, which is the driving force for both pro and major college football.
This year the Washington Huskies have obviously played and beaten Boise State, which is probably the hardest of their non-conference opponents. Illinois and Idaho State are up next and if the Huskies can take care of business and win those two games they set themselves up well for another bowl simply because they would only have to win 3 more of their remaining 9 games and still be eligible. Go figure again.
Now Illinois is a formidable opponent simply because it is in the Big-10 Conference. Granted, they didn’t win a single conference game last year and had one of their worst seasons ever, but they did have a number of players drafted by the NFL and in Illinois there is plenty of talent because it is a highly populated state. They won their opener 42-34 against a lower level team (Southern Illinois) and backed it up by crushing a Cincinnati team that had blown out Purdue in its first game. They have a wide open passing game and a red-shirt senior quarterback, Nathan Scheelhaase, who is not afraid to sling it And threw for 416 yards in their opener. They run reverses, screens, and all sorts of miss-direction plays. Their defense improved greatly from game one to game two and the Huskies will have to fly over 5 or 6 states just to get there. This is not an easy game and Washington has not played well on the road the past few years.
To beat the Illini the Huskies will need to eliminate the big plays as Illinois has had at least 6 plays of over 30 yards and that is after only two games. This is only the second year of a new program at Illinois and to start with two consecutive wins has been really big for their confidence. The major test will be for the Husky defense who went back to work during their bye week working on fundamentals like their tackling and pass rushing following their stunning win over Boise State.
To go on the road, against a Big 10 opponent, and get a victory is critical to the development of this year’s Husky team. Win the turnover battle by protecting the football, be solid in the kicking game, and keep the peddle to the metal on offense and Washington should come home a winner.