STACY ROST

Rost: No. 2 UW still getting ‘very little’ respect after CFP semis win

Jan 3, 2024, 10:51 AM | Updated: 1:54 pm

UW Huskies CFP Michael Penix Jr....

UW Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. after winning the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2024. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

(Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

It’s not likely the UW Huskies, the country’s No. 2 team that’s been an underdog against lower-ranked seeds several times this season, needed more bulletin board material heading into Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship against Michigan.

But they got it anyway.

What Stands Out: Brock Huard on UW punching ticket to title game

This week’s edition of Washington Doubt () comes from radio host Paul Finebaum, an admitted SEC fan.

Paul’s having a tough go of it. How could you not feel for the guy! Alabama was eliminated from the playoffs with a Rose Bowl loss to Michigan, and now Finebaum is staring at a Pac-12/Big Ten matchup on Monday. It’s awful. Horrible. Gut-wrenching. Disgusting. For SEC fans, at least.

The veteran journalist already picked Texas to win the Sugar Bowl. His reasoning? His respect for the Longhorns’ road win over Alabama (go figure) and resiliency under head coach Steve Sarkisian. He recognized Washington’s undefeated schedule but still seemed openly skeptical of their overall skill, remaining particularly surprised that they beat Oregon (speaking of resiliency…).

Alas, it was the Huskies who advanced. They now have a date set with No. 1 Michigan on Monday’s national title game.

During a hit Tuesday with ESPN Radio’s Carlin vs. Joe, Finebaum was asked about the chances he gives the Dawgs to win the championship, and he didn’t seem especially effusive with his praise.

“Very little,” Finebaum said. “So here we go. I’m not making friends with UW fans out in Seattle. Listen, I don’t need to be educated after 14 games that they’re undefeated. That’s pretty obvious to anyone in America. But I just don’t think it’s a good matchup for them. I respect what they’ve done and we talk about their offensive line won the Joe Moore Award – they did – but they’re also in the Pac-12, where the defenses are not to the degree of what I saw firsthand yesterday by Michigan.”

You can hear Finebaum’s thoughts on the Huskies at about the 8:40 mark of the podcast at this link, or similar analysis from his appearance on ESPN’s First Take in the video below.

I understand the lingering doubt around whether a high-flying offense can handle a Southern defense (or, in this case, a defense from a powerhouse program like Michigan). Washington’s defense made the biggest plays when it matters most against Texas – snagging a pair of fumbles and batting away a pass in the final second. Washington played like the better of the two teams but didn’t necessarily answer questions about whether the defense is quite as balanced as its elite passing offense.

But it’s unclear what else an undefeated program, especially one that has faced several ranked teams this season, needs to do to prove itself. Compare that schedule to the three ranked teams Michigan faced; the Wolverines didn’t play a ranked team until Nov. 11 against Penn State, when JJ McCarthy threw for 60 yards. In fact, McCarthy wrapped up the season with passing highs of 141, 148 and 147 yards before throwing for 221 against Alabama in the Rose Bowl.

Is Michigan going to be the biggest challenge yet for the UW Huskies? Absolutely. Without a doubt. The most points allowed by Michigan’s defense this year was 24 from both Maryland and Ohio State. UW’s defense has allowed at least 24 points in seven games.

Even then, it sure seems like Finebaum’s criticism is based less on what Washington has or hasn’t done and instead based on the fact that their conference plays games after he’s gone to sleep.

The undefeated, No. 2-ranked UW Huskies meet the undefeated, No. 1-ranked Michigan Wolverines to determine the college football national championship at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 8. You can hear the ESPN Radio broadcast live on Seattle Sports 710 AM, or streaming on the Seattle Sports app and SeattleSports.com.

More on UW Huskies in the CFP

Hot Take: Why UW Huskies’ Penix was so amazing in Sugar Bowl
Title game matches UW Huskies’ prolific Penix vs Michigan’s elite D
UW Huskies topples Texas to punch ticket to national title game
Recap: Penix leads UW Huskies over Texas 37-31 in Sugar Bowl
Damon Huard: UW Huskies’ Michael Penix ‘is ready for the NFL’

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