Are the Washington Huskies ready for the hype machine?
The hype train is leaving the station, with the University of Washington football team being projected to contend for not only a Pac-12 title but also a major bowl berth.
While that’s obviously an exciting prospect, 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk” aren’t sure the lofty expectations are such a good thing.
“Boy, head coach Chris Petersen wants to stop that train,” Brock Huard said Tuesday.
The Huskies had a 7-6 record in 2015, but they finished the season with a trio of blowout victories and have been ranked as high as No. 11 in offseason polls. The offense will be led by quarterback Jake Browning and tailback Myles Gaskin, both sophomores, while the Pac-12’s No. 1 ranked defense returns with a top-shelf secondary anchored by All-Pac-12 corner Sidney Jones.
ESPN college football insider Phil Steele called the Huskies his No. 1 surprise team that is a “dark horse title contender.” Mike Salk said there are advantages to those kinds of optimistic expectations, but that often times – especially with young teams – the hype is not helpful. Salk said it’s not a question of whether the hype is warranted, but whether it’s good for the program.
“In college football, where perception can often turn into reality, sometimes the hype is incredibly important in order to get people talking about your program to help recruiting, etc.,” he said. “On the other hand, if the goal is to do some actual winning, history has shown us that hyped teams, especially for the first time, tend to struggle.”
Huard, a former UW quarterback, said Petersen has tried his best to temper expectations from the outside and that he trusts Petersen’s pedigree from Boise State.
“If this was (previous Washington coach) Steve Sarkisian with this hype train, who had never been there or done it and had shown nothing but inconsistency, I think there would be a lot more consternation,” Huard said.
Salk said the Pac-12 appears to be a wide open conference, but a jump from seven wins to title contention seems like a big leap for a program that hasn’t been relevant on the national stage for years.
Salk compared it to the 2010 Mariners coming off an 87-win team and adding Cliff Lee and Chone Figgins. The group appeared to be on the rise, only to fail miserably. Huard said the difference is that UW is not relying on people new to the program that might change the team’s culture.
“This has been built over the last three years,” he said. “They have weeded out the bad apples. They have done everything at the foundation level to build up your line, your talent, to have the quarterback and top-ranked defense, to have some foundational elements that you feel pretty good about in the culture you’re trying to build.”
Either way, Huard thinks the UW fans are ready.
“I think Husky fans are just fine and feel it’s their rightful place to sit back on top of these standings,” he said, “that there’s just too many good things about the program.”