Huard: What UW Huskies’ CFP semifinal vs Texas will come down to

Dec 17, 2023, 3:14 PM

UW Huskies Texas Sugar Bowl Michael Penix Jr. Alamo Bowl...

UW Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. sneaks on fourth down against Texas in the 2022 Alamo Bowl. (Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

(Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

There’s something convenient about previewing the No. 2 UW Huskies’ national semifinal meeting with No. 3 Texas in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.

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The reason is that these same two teams met in a bowl game almost exactly a year prior, with Washington prevailing over the Longhorns 27-20 despite Texas getting a home-field advantage of sorts in San Antonio.

This time, the meeting will be in New Orleans, which still favors Texas geographically. But the location of the game won’t matter if the Huskies can’t match the Longhorns in one key area.

FOX college football analyst Brock Huard explained that during Friday’s edition of Blue 88 on Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk, using what he saw from recently reviewing the game tape of the 2022 Alamo Bowl.

“I watched about the first half last night of the coaches’ tape,” Huard shared, “and you know what jumped out to me? You see this in the semifinal games a little bit more than the championship game. The word that just kept coming to my mind: conditioning. Both teams at times last year looked gassed in that Alamo Bowl.”

It’s easy to see why the shape of the players would be such a big factor. By the time the Sugar Bowl kicks off, each team will be about a month removed from their previous game – UW’s Pac-12 Championship victory over Oregon on Dec. 1, and Texas’ blowout of Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship on Dec. 2.

Huard went on to detail how he expects the Sugar Bowl to play out because of the emphasis on conditioning.

“We’ll get more into this over the next couple of weeks – both of these defenses are structured similarly. They do not want to give up the big play,” said Huard, who starred as a quarterback at Washington before a career in the NFL. “They want to play a lot of quarters coverage – it’s called shell coverage for some reason in the NFL – but they want to rush four, they want to make the other team earn it. Don’t let (Texas quarterback) Quinn Ewers, don’t let (UW Huskies quarterback) Michael Penix, these guys with just huge arms (make) all these explosive plays.”

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At least in the case of Penix, he took what the Texas defense gave him to lead Washington to the win last year against the Longhorns.

“There were a couple drives after initial shots on the first two drives, Penix went, ‘OK, I gotta take six yards, and four yards, and six yards, and four yards,'” Huard said.

The stakes of the Sugar Bowl make conditioning that much more important, as the players on both teams are unfamiliar with the intensity that is inherit to a College Football Playoff semifinal.

“That is going to be the big one, just getting that conditioning for a couple teams that haven’t been on this stage, haven’t been in this playoff format,” Huard said. “And even the ones that were – you know, Georgia last year nearly got beat in that semifinal by Ohio State for the same reason. Just getting those football legs back will be a big part of the conversation the next couple of weeks.”

The ESPN Radio broadcast of the Sugar Bowl between the UW Huskies and Texas Longhorns (5 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 1) will air live on Seattle Sports 710 AM and the Seattle Sports app, as will the rest of the College Football Playoff games.

Listen to the full Blue 88 segment from Friday’s Brock and Salk in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

More on UW Huskies vs Texas in the Sugar Bowl

Brock & Damon’s Playoff Preview: Breaking down the Sugar Bowl
What They Said: Michael Penix Jr. in-studio with Wyman & Bob
Huard: Why No. 2 Huskies’ matchup vs No. 3 Texas favors UW
Ten Texas players to know as UW Huskies prepare for Sugar Bowl
Texas reporter details what UW Huskies face in Sugar Bowl

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