Waiting. Hoping. Wishing. Agonizing.
Maddeningly, for many college football fans in the Pacific Northwest, these are the emotions that define this season.
Arguably, all of the biggest goals are off the table for the Washington Huskies, the Washington State Cougars, and the Oregon Ducks.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Each school and fanbase, for their own reasons, believed that things would be better than this in 2019.
But now, all have to be looking down the barrel of having to wait another year. With no guarantee that next year will be better.
Trot out the old clichés you always hear when things aren’t going well: It could always be worse; at least we’re not ________ (fill in the blank with some other school who has it worse).
Now, if you’re reading this and you’re an Oregon Duck, you’re probably saying to yourself, “What the hell is this guy talking about? The Ducks have everything in front of them!”
Well, yes and no.
Sure, they’re sitting in the catbird seat in the Pac-12 North. If they don’t go to the conference game, it will be a monumental disappointment.
But is this what Justin Herbert forwent entering last year’s NFL draft for when he might have been the number one quarterback taken? To face the Utah Utes this year in a game they could easily lose?
And what about Oregon’s chances to make the College Football Playoffs if they handle the Utes?
Based upon what resume? Beating Utah, who is currently ranked ninth, mostly by virtue of having lost only one game thus far?
I know this sounds harsh, but if you look at the other teams ahead of the Ducks in the current AP poll, it’s hard to imagine the committee choosing Oregon over a school like Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, or Clemson. Sure, LSU and Alabama have to play each other, so one of them loses, but would that loss be worse than Oregon’s loss to Auburn, where the Ducks looked a gift horse right in the mouth and shrugged? What if Ohio State somehow loses to Michigan? That is probably Oregon’s best hope. Then again, does anybody believe that Oregon is a better team than an Ohio State team that hypothetically loses on the road to a surging, Jim Harbaugh-led Michigan team that just beat the brakes off of Notre Dame? It’s hard to imagine.
From there, it only gets more depressing.
The Huskies are sitting at 5-3. They’re bowl eligible. That’s about it. Talk about profound disappointment. This was supposed to be the year of Jacob Eason, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way.
The good news is that Eason will be around, presumably, for at least one more year. The future looks bright there. Long on the … hope. The bad things began when the Huskies dropped that game to Cal, of course, but they’ve gone downhill from there. They could have beat the Ducks as well, but Oregon proved that they are the better team this year. And that hurts, at least for the dawg faithful.
And when it comes to the Cougars, they were mostly going into this season hoping that things would finally break for Mike Leach. He’s been building and building, climbing and climbing, and eventually he has to reach the summit, right? In theory, yes. Just not in practice. The cold, hard reality is that some things never come. Not that they won’t. Just that there’s no rule that says they have to.
So, what does it all mean? It means that the Pac-12 needs to shore itself up, collectively. Bring back the Stanfords, the USCs, hell, the Cals, why not? When the conference competition gets better, all boats will rise.
What will it take? Maybe something crazy. There’s lots of speculation that a certain coach, whose name rhymes with Bourbon Crier, might find himself coaching the Trojans at some point. The way things stand right now, he could waltz in and just take over the conference in one fell swoop.
Trust me, Cougars, Ducks, Huskies, and any other woodland creatures out there—that’s the last thing you want to happen.