Caple: Before CFP, a look at 5 biggest bowl games in UW Huskies history

Dec 23, 2023, 10:40 AM

UW Huskies Dante Pettis...

Dante Pettis #8 of the UW Huskies catches a touchdown in the 2016 Peach Bowl. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

When the UW Huskies take the field for their College Football Playoff semifinal against Texas on Jan. 1 at the Sugar Bowl, it will be unlike nearly any postseason game they’ve ever played.

Why CFB insider Bruce Feldman thinks UW Huskies will beat Texas

Why? Well, the CFP has only existed since 2014, and UW has participated just once, as the No. 4 seed in 2016 against top-ranked, undefeated Alabama. Unlike that season, though, the Huskies could advance to the national championship game without needing to topple a heavily favored opponent.

Yes, the No. 3 Longhorns are favored over the No. 2 Huskies this year, but only by about 4.5 points — a far cry from the 14-point spread Alabama enjoyed in 2016.

Which other postseason games must be considered among the biggest in UW history? Through the lens of high stakes, quality of opponent and championship contention, here are five to consider, in chronological order.

Jan. 1, 1960: UW Huskies 44, Wisconsin 8 (Rose Bowl)

Washington’s first Rose Bowl victory also was only the second time a West Coast team had defeated a Big Ten opponent in the game. The Badgers were favored by 6.5 points. The victory sealed a 10-1 final record for the Huskies, who were led by quarterback Bob Schloredt and running back George Fleming, co-players of the game.

Jan. 2, 1961: UW Huskies 17, Minnesota 7 (Rose Bowl)

Schloredt returned from a shoulder injury to lead the Huskies to their second consecutive Rose Bowl victory — and player of the game honors for a second time, too. UW was again a touchdown underdog, this time against the nation’s No. 1-ranked team. As the Huskies finished 9-1 and were chosen as the No. 1 team by the Helms Foundation — which put out a post-bowl poll, while the AP did not — the school eventually decided to claim a national championship for the 1960 season, honoring the team in 2007.

Jan. 1, 1985: UW Huskies 28, Oklahoma 17 (Orange Bowl)

UW players believed they were good enough to win a national title in 1984, but that dream appeared to vanish with a 16-7 loss at USC late in the season. But while the Trojans did wind up winning the Pac-10 and playing in the Rose Bowl, Navy’s shocking upset of South Carolina opened a spot for Washington in the Orange — a first in school history. The No. 2-ranked Sooners were favored by six points, but the Huskies jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, and outscored Oklahoma 14-3 in a decisive fourth quarter to pull off the upset. Voters gave unbeaten BYU the national championship, but UW finished a close — and controversial — No. 2.

Jan. 1, 1992: UW Huskies 34, Michigan 14 (Rose Bowl)

The Huskies capped their unbeaten 1991 season with a convincing victory over the Wolverines, highlighted by receiver Mario Bailey’s Heisman pose. The win clinched a share of that year’s national championship with unbeaten Miami — the Hurricanes were No. 1 in the AP poll, the Huskies No. 1 in the coaches poll — and it remains one of only two national championships UW claims in football.

Dec. 31, 2016: UW Huskies 24, Washington 7 (Peach Bowl/CFP semifinal)

The Huskies did strike first, scoring on Jake Browning’s first-quarter touchdown pass to Dante Pettis, and UW’s defense held its own throughout the game. But Alabama’s defense was even better, harassing Browning, shutting down UW’s running game and preventing the Huskies from sniffing the end zone until the outcome was decided. The No. 1-ranked, undefeated Crimson Tide did lose to Clemson in the national championship game, but still might be the best team UW has ever faced in the postseason.

This column from UW Huskies football insider Christian Caple is exclusive to Seattle Sports. Subscribe to for full access to Caple’s in-depth Husky coverage.

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