Happy New Year to everyone. It promises to be a quieter one for UW than a year ago, when on this day they were in the process of hiring Justin Wilcox and also announcing that Chris Polk was declaring for the NFL Draft.
And will the New Year next year also be more eventful?
At least one college football analyst thinks it could be.
Travis Haney, a national college football writer for ESPN.com, wrote about the 10 biggest questions in college football in 2013 in this Insider piece. One of those questions asked which teams will be national title sleepers in 2013. Here’s part of what Haney wrote in response:
I doubt there will be any surprises from the SEC. Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M — even South Carolina — aren’t sneaking up on anyone; they all had solid 2012 seasons. Clemson in the ACC might fall into that category too, though most would be surprised if the Tigers were able to put together an entire season and not just a hot stretch at the beginning or end of the fall.
Here are two programs to watch:
Washington has steadily put together a good young coaching staff and it’s getting talent like tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and linebacker Shaq Thompson to go with it. The Huskies could be a team to watch in the Pac-12, if the offensive line and defense progress.
And sigh, I keep riding this one, but keep an eye on Texas in 2013. It returns a load of talent and adds more with its recruiting class. Plus, the Longhorns have incrementally improved, getting back to eight wins in 2011, then nine in 2012. Ten or more wins in ’13 wouldn’t be outlandish, but UT has to play far, far better in the Red River game to really turn heads. Manny Diaz’s defense has to improve. It can’t play any worse, right?
Haney probably won’t have a ton of company in making that assessment. Lots can happen with coaching changes and everything else the next few months, but it seems likely at this point UW wouldn’t be picked any higher than third in the Pac-12 North, again behind Oregon and Stanford.
And while the non-conference schedule is, on paper, as soft as any the Huskies have had in years, the Pac-12 road schedule won’t be easy — at Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA and Arizona State.
As Haney mentions, the offensive line needs to progress, and the defense also needs to continue the improvement it showed this season — the pass rush may be the biggest area of concern. And Haney didn’t mention what ended the season as the No. 1 topic of conversation — the quarterback position. Also worth keeping in mind is that when these kinds of stories ask for someone to pick a surprise, they have to pick, well, a surprise, and not some team coming off an 11-win season or something.
But such stories also speak to the heightened expectations that will greet the Huskies in 2013, when UW returns most of its significant players and the most experienced roster of the Steve Sarkisian era.
In other news. …
— Ryan Petitt, who used to cover UW for Rivals.com, now has his own sports blog and in this piece asks whether Sarkisian is the one to bring UW back to national prominence.
— Former Husky Ray Horton, now the defensive coordinator for the Cardinals, could be a candidate for Cleveland Browns’ head coaching job.
— USC was the latest Pac-12 team to faceplant in its bowl game, ending one of the most disappointing seasons in its history. LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke writes that he wouldn’t be surprised if the season resulted in major changes.
— Bud Withers writes about the Pac-12’s disappointing bowl season.
— Jon Wilner writes that the conference’s honor is at stake today in the Rose Bowl.
— Ken Goe states a similar theory while also posting a bunch of links around the conference.
— UW’s 2013 opener will be against a team from the Mountain West Conference after all as Boise State has decided to remain in the MWC rather than leave for the on-life-support Big East.
— Christian Caple also has some links around the conference.
— Withers picks Stanford to win a close one in the Rose Bowl. At the risk of again riding with a Pac-12 team, which I’ve done throughout the bowls with obviously little success, I will also pick the Cardinal, 23-17.