BY Adam Lewis 06:15PM 11/04/2013

Huskies can use Colorado to buck 7-6 trend

Barring a major upset against Colorado, the Huskies are going to be bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive year. What happens next?

Steve Sarkisian is trying to find a way past another 7-6 season. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Blowing out menial opponents in Montlake –Boise State, Idaho State and California were crushed by a combined score of  135-23 — is a familiar theme for the University of Washington football team (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12). Not even potential rust from their second bye week will keep the Huskies from inflicting on Colorado (3-5, 0-5 Pac-12, last in the Pac-12 South) a similar rout when the Buffaloes visit Husky Stadium Saturday (5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).

The question is in the weeks ahead: Where will UW finish 2013?

With four games remaining, the Huskies are one win from becoming bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive year. Steve Sarkisian has never surpassed the seven-win mark as a head coach, going 7-6 each season from 2010-12. The inaugural winning record of that trio, buoyed by an unlikely Holiday Bowl victory against Nebraska, was seen as a major accomplishment. The more recent two?

Not so much.

The onus falls on Sarkisian to help what he often refers to as his “organization” to jump Oregon State for third in the Pac-12 North, launching the Huskies to a mid-level bowl game. Blocking the path to San Diego (Holiday Bowl) or San Antonio (Alamo Bowl) is an arduous but not impossible schedule.

After Colorado, the Huskies play the Bruins in Pasadena, then the Beavers in Corvallis, before facing the Cougars in Seattle to close out the regular season.

“Each one of these games will be different, but we’re capable of doing it,” Sarkisian said Monday of the possibility of winning out. “I see no reason why we won’t. I think we’re going to play great football. They’re all going to be hard . . . It’s always difficult to win at UCLA, Oregon State, and then obviously the Apple Cup. They’re going to be hard, but I just think we’ll be ready to go.”

Defeating at home a Colorado team whose only wins came against Colorado State, Central Arkansas and Charleston Southern won’t be quite as tough. Under first-year head coach Mike MacIntyre, the Buffaloes haven’t lost to a Pac-12 team this season by less than 22 points, though last week they played UCLA tough in a 45-23 defeat.

Colorado hasn’t given up on its season.

“They play hard,” Sarkisian said. “I think Coach (Mike) MacIntyre has done a good job of changing the culture there and getting those kids to play hard. They have some good football players.”

The best is receiver Paul Richardson, a junior from Los Angeles that in eight games has 57 receptions for 984 yards and eight touchdowns. He averages 17.3 yards per catch, and is the best threat to torment a UW secondary allowing 215.1 passing yards per game.

Freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau, meanwhile, provides the Buffaloes, losers of 13 consecutive Pac-12 games, hope that better times are ahead. Liufau attended high school at Tacoma’s Bellarmine Prep and received heavy interest from Sarkisian’s coaching staff.

Since replacing incumbent Connor Wood Oct. 19 against Charleston Southern, Liufau has completed 64.9 percent of his throws for 846 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.

His modest rise as a productive up-and-comer is reflective of a team that is making strides. They’re just way behind the Huskies.

“They’re trying to find that one to get over the hump in conference play,” Sarkisian said. “We just got to make sure that we’re not the one.”

The Huskies should be the better-rested team Saturday.

The bye week gave quarterback Keith Price additional time to rehabilitate the swollen thumb on a throwing hand that seemed as if, against Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State,  it was one hit away from ending his senior season. Left guard Dexter Charles, perhaps the team’s best offensive lineman, returned Monday from a shoulder injury after missing the previous two games. Bishop Sankey, the nation’s No. 3 rusher (145.3 yards per game), had a chance to recover from his increasing workload.

“A lot of guys with just the nagging bumps and bruises looked fresh and upbeat running around today,” Sarkisian said. “Obviously (October) was a long month for us, from a psyche standpoint. I thought the energy was good from the guys at practice today, and (we’re) excited to go finish the season.”


YourThoughts

  • RadioGuy

    I can see the Huskies going 3-1 the rest of the way. They should beat Colorado and WSU at home and picking off an upset in LA or Corvallis isn’t beyond their reach.

    There are seven bowl games the PAC-12 will send teams to, from the New Mexico Bowl for the #7 team up to the Rose Bowl. Assuming Oregon plays in the BCS Championship Game, that’ll be eight conference teams in the postseason. Right now, the Dawgs are looking like a Sun Bowl team, but a win at UCLA or OSU could move them up to the Holiday or even the Alamo. None of those would be bad, but the best payout comes from a trip to San Antonio.

    If push comes to shove, UW fans are known to travel and spend money in large numbers and that might be taken into account…things like bowl placement won’t be decided solely on won-lost records.

    • Pixdawg13

      On that ‘payout’ thing–doesn’t the PAC pool all the bowl money and then split it among all 12 teams (after expenses for each team are paid, of course)?

      On one other topic–I want someone besides me to tell Sark the same thing PC told Golden: “Don’t tell me–SHOW me.”

      • RadioGuy

        I’d forgotten about that. You’re right. I suppose 1/12th of $3 million is still better than 1/12th of $2 million (minus expenses), but at that point you’re talking chump change for these guys.

        Maybe the better way to look at this is that a trip to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl trumps a trip to El Paso for the Sun Bowl. Even minor bowls in Honolulu or Vegas would be better than El Paso. Still, anything beats going to Boise in late December.

  • 3 Lions

    At 3-1 Sark’s job is safe. At 2-2, look out. Lose the last two to OSU & WSU & there will be blood in the water. The nature of how we play & compete in those two games will be critical. It would nice to see some consistent, disciplined football. Is this program improving or treading water?

  • jafabian

    Still think it’s going to be another 7-6 season, but having had to endure a winless season I’ll take it. Don’t see this team upsetting the Bruins and Beavers on their home turfs and if they want a good bowl they need to win against one of them and play the other close at the very least. I’d love to see them go to the Sun Bowl. Don James used to love going there.

    Being without Kasen Williams will make things even more difficult for them.