What now? 3 things to know for UW Huskies after Ohio State bails

Feb 19, 2023, 2:14 PM

UW Huskies Kalen DeBoer...

UW huskies coach Kalen DeBoer walks the field before a game against Oregon State on Nov. 4, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The UW Huskies’ planned home-and-home football series with Ohio State for 2024 and 2025 was canceled by the Buckeyes last week in a particularly frustrating development in Montlake.

News story: UW Huskies-Ohio State football series canceled by Buckeyes

Washington is a team on the rise, coming off an 11-2 season and Alamo Bowl victory over Texas in head coach Kalen DeBoer’s first year with the Dawgs. They no doubt have hopes of being a College Football Playoff contender going forward, so losing a marquee matchup for two straight seasons so late in the scheduling game is a big blow.

The news of Ohio State’s cancellation was a big topic on Seattle Sports in the following days, with FOX college football analyst Brock Huard weighing in on the situation Thursday morning on Brock and Salk, and his former Huskies teammate and current Pac-12 Network analyst Nigel Burton joining Bump and Stacy later in the day to share his thoughts.

Here are three things to know that Huard and Burton touched on about why Ohio State left the UW Huskies hanging and where it leaves the Dawgs now.

1. It’s a different world than when UW and OSU agreed.

It was nearly six years ago when Washington and Ohio State announced the two games against each other for 2024 and 2025, with the news coming out in April 2017. Needless to say, a lot of things have changed in college football since then, and the most important change in regards to this situation is that USC and UCLA are leaving the Pac-12 (Washington’s conference) for the Big Ten (home of Ohio State) after the 2023 season.

“I think it comes down to No. 1, USC and UCLA join the Big Ten and that is the West Coast presence (in Ohio State’s schedule),” Huard said (listen in the Blue 88 segment here). “… You know that the Big Ten is going to put Ohio State and USC, however they structure the league, to make sure those teams play each other every year, so they’re going to already be going out west.”

UCLA and USC represent a step up from some of the competition the Buckeyes are used to in the Big Ten, too.

“You now have this trip to LA that is not Purdue, it ain’t Northwestern, it’s not the Indianas and the ragamuffins of the Big Ten,” Burton told Stacy Rost and his Pac-12 Network colleague Michael Bumpus. “You’re gonna go to LA and you’re gonna have to play somebody who can knock you off, and so the idea of them coming out and playing in a place like Husky Stadium – which is tough for anybody to go to, let alone for a team from the Big Ten – I can see that there just wasn’t a whole lot of benefit to them versus the risk of coming out and getting embarrassed and now having to fight an uphill battle of possibly having to go undefeated or not being able to have a blemish in the Big Ten.”

That risk is something Huard also pointed to, specifically when it comes to Ohio State’s national championship hopes.

“Just from a competitive-advantage standpoint,” Huard said, “looking at it going, ‘Why? Why are we doing this when Alabama and Georgia and these teams that are in the title game and in the playoff year after year, they’re not? They’re not heading three time zones over to go play. No, no, here you go, Washington. Here’s that $500,000 (cancellation fee) and we can at least say face and say, well, I mean, when we made the deal we didn’t know that USC and UCLA would come to the conference.’ So there’s a little way to save face. I don’t like it – it reeks, it stinks.”

2. UW Huskies are now in a rough spot with scheduling.

Ohio State’s cancellation means the Buckeyes have to find two new games themselves, but they’ll likely have an easier time doing so than the Huskies. Burton, who after his time as a safety with Washington from 1996-98 entered the coaching ranks, shared some scheduling insight from his tenure as Portland State head coach from 2010-14.

“I think it’s particularly tough for UW, and I’m speaking as a guy who had to schedule games in Portland, Ore., and trying to come up with a way to entice teams to come way out here when you just don’t have a lot of options,” Burton said. “(Washington director of athletics) Jen Cohen is going to earn her paycheck trying to convince someone to pass over all the other options that other teams are gonna have to come to Seattle and play a home-and-home against a Power 5 team. … I’m not going to use the word disastrous, but it is a significant, significant problem for the University of Washington.”

Burton is sympathetic about where this leaves Washington.

“I’m gonna send a bottle to Jen’s office because… nobody’s gonna have anything. It’s gonna be awful. The options are going to be terrible. So then you’re trying to figure out, can you sell your soul? And you’re like, ‘I don’t really want a road game, but if I gotta do that, I’ll do that.’ So then you start calling the conference office, you say, ‘Hey, can I move a game? Because I see that this school has this particular option and maybe we can move some things around when that time comes to allow us to make this work because I just got screwed over.’ In the short term, that could be a play.”

The one thing that could help the Huskies, though, is that Ohio State is probably just the start of teams making late changes to their schedules.

“Do not be surprised if you see this start to happen to a bunch of different Power 5 teams, in particular on the West Coast, as we see UCLA and USC getting absorbed by the Big Ten. … There’s probably still some movement that’s going to happen that hopefully will play into UW’s favor, but in the short-term, it’s going to be painful.”

3. Strength of schedule isn’t as important as before.

Stacy Rost had an important follow-up for Burton about the impact of Ohio State leaving the Huskies hanging.

“Let’s say that Washington isn’t able to find a comparable opponent for 2024 and 2025,” she said. “Then they’re stuck trying to make their case for a College Football Playoff spot, or trying to make their case for even a high ranking or something and all they’re gonna get is knocked for playing cupcake opponents, so to speak.”

Burton agreed, but also explained why that may not hit as hard as it would have in the past.

“You’re right… but the reality is, you go undefeated in the conference, which nobody has done (in the Pac-12), you’re in,” he said. “You lose one game in the conference and go undefeated in your non-conference, you’re probably in – you’re going to be in, especially now that the playoff has been expanded (from four) to 12 teams. So I think they’ll be OK in that aspect.”

That being said, if Washington or its Pac-12 rivals do make the CFP in 2024 or 2025, they could still ultimately be hurt by losing out on games against marquee opponents.

“The issue is going to be when it comes to seeding. That’s where things are going to start to get murky… That’s where your strength of scheduling, some of these other things are going to come into play (for) teams like Washington. Oregon has been able to kind of throw around Nike a little bit to get teams to come out there, but a lot of these teams that consider themselves to be in the hunt for the playoff that are on the West Coast, the Utahs are going to really have a tough time. And you know, (Utah is) gonna luck out next year, they get Florida, but outside of that they’re gonna start running into some issues, as well.”

You can listen to the full conversation with Burton in the podcast player below.

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