Chris Petersen has Pac-12 champion Washington playing like it's 1991
A commanding, 41-10 rout over Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship Game concluded a 12-1 run and league title for the Washington Huskies. The Dawgs now will play for their first national championship in 25 years.
Qualities of this year's Washington football team are very much reminiscent of the last championship-winning team on Montlake – tenacious and physical defense, competent quarterback play, game-breakers in the backfield and an outstanding head coach overseeing it all.
As Washington readies for its national semifinal, Husky faithful have plenty of reasons to prepare to celebrate like it's 1991.
Playoff Teams: No. 1 Alabama I No. 2 Clemson I No. 3 Ohio State I No. 4 Washington
5 Reasons Why Washington Will Win the 2016 College Football Playoff
1. Turnover-Hungry Huskies
Washington came into Friday’s Pac-12 Championship Game against Colorado leading college football in takeaways with 30. The hungry Huskies feasted on another three turnovers in the win over the Buffaloes.
Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski’s strategy of tenacious pressure without calling blitzes throws a net over the field. Quarterbacks pass at their own peril against a fully manned, ball-hawking Washington secondary.
Colorado's Sefo Liufau did so. The result was game-changing, with Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Taylor Rapp picking off the senior signal-caller twice – once of which he returned for a touchdown – en route to game MVP honors.
The first-year phenom Rapp is just one of several dynamic playmakers able to generate takeaways on any play for the Huskies. Budda Baker excels in every facet of the game, whether it be run support, bringing a rare blitz, pass coverage and, of course, turnover-creation.
2. A Well-Rounded Passing Attack
Quarterback Jake Browning has garnered the lion’s share of individual attention throughout Washington’s run to a playoff berth, and the 2016 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year earned every one of his plaudits.
Browning finished with 42 touchdowns against just seven interceptions on the campaign.
But without the dynamic receiving duo of John Ross and Dante Pettis, there are no awards and kudos piling up for Browning.
Ross and Pettis combined for a remarkable 31 touchdown catches. Ross' 17 rank behind only Western Michigan's Corey Davis for the most in college football.
Covering one presents a defense with a real pick-the-poison scenario, as they bring similar qualities that can prove game-changing.
Were that not enough, Darrell Daniels functions as one of the nation's most dangerous pass-catching tight ends in college football – a sturdy short-to-mid-range option to balance the big-play threat Ross and Pettis pose.
3. Double-Trouble in the Backfield
When head coach Chris Petersen seeks a change-of-pace in his running game, the production level doesn’t dip. Myles Gaskin serves as Washington’s primary ball carrier, and does so effectively. His 1,1810 rushing yards led the Pac-12 in the regular season, and he tacked on another 159 against Colorado.
But when Lavon Coleman’s number is called, the Huskies lose nothing, as he is averaging an impressive 7.8 yards per carry.
The duo has combined for 17 touchdowns. That total would be more were the Washington offense not so balanced, but that balance is precisely why the Huskies have the opportunity to play for a national championship.
4. Offensive Line Play
Browning's impressive individual numbers and the one-two combination of Coleman and Gaskin would not be possible without the performance of an outstanding offensive line. And, indeed, Washington's was the best in the Pac-12 this season.
First Team All-Pac-12 honorees Trey Adams and Jake Eldrenkamp, along with Second Team selection Coleman Shelton, establish the tone for Washington's physical brand of football.
The Husky front five blows would-be tacklers off the ball to open holes. Rarely does a Washington run fail to reach the second level. The credit starts with the players up front.
5. Chris Petersen
Petersen's never had the opportunity to coach for a national championship, but he's no stranger to college football's big stages.
He made his name nationally at Boise State with victories over heavyweights and lopsided favorites, going on a run from 2006-11 that included Fiesta Bowl wins over Oklahoma and TCU; a dominating defeat of Chip Kelly's first conference championship team at Oregon; and wins in virtual road games over Virginia Tech and Georgia.
In a season preceded with monumental hype, Petersen's even-tempered approach reflected in the approach of his roster. Gaskin credit Petersen specifically for keeping the Huskies focused on the task at hand – and through a conference championship and playoff berth, that style has paid dividends.