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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

July 3, 2013 at 10:20 AM

If UW’s Keith Price needs motivation, he’s got it here . . .

Just took a good, hard look at some of the preseason college football magazines that have trickled into publication the past month or so. If you’re a University of Washington follower, you probably won’t be wowed by what you read. If I were to characterize the take on the UW, it’s a mix of skepticism and guarded optimism. And if you were to probe beneath that outlook, it’s fair to say much of those reservations have to do with less-than-glowing assessments of quarterback Keith Price.

Being a big believer in the “bounce” theory, I tend to think they’re underselling Price in a major way — and if that holds true, by association, they also may be underestimating the Huskies.

First, some of the particulars: Phil Steele’s respected college football preview picks Washington 30th, as does Lindy’s. Athlon has Washington 37th.

Meanwhile, Price’s sub-par junior season clearly cost him a ton of acclaim entering his final year (for what that’s worth). On his list of draft-eligible (2014) quarterbacks, Steele has Price 39th, a fairly shocking rating, given that he has Ball State’s Keith Wenning 22nd, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger 27th, Tulsa’s Cody Green 28th, Garrett Gilbert of SMU 34th and Everett Golson of Notre Dame 38th. Everett Golson, ahead of Price? (Since Steele’s copy deadline, Golson was suspended for the 2013 season for academic deficiences.)

Steele isn’t the only magazine to lowball Price. Lindy’s doesn’t have him in its top 25 of quarterback ratings. And on a list of “fantasy” college quarterbacks, he doesn’t make Lindy’s top 40. If you believe Price will be the UW quarterback all season, I’m thinking he’d be a terrific fantasy quarterback, given his school-record 33 touchdown passes in 2011 and his running capability.

Steele doesn’t share the notion that Washington quarterbacking is in good hands with Price and redshirt freshman Cyler Miles in the wings. He has the Huskies 36th in a ranking of strength of the position.

Of course, the read on Price isn’t an easy one. Is he the guy who riddled Baylor for seven touchdowns in the 2011 Alamo Bowl, spurring mention as a fringe candidate for the next year’s Heisman Trophy? Or is he the fumble-thumbed guy of 2012 who burped up the ball to WSU defensive lineman Toni Pole on the Huskies’ only possession of overtime in the Apple Cup? I’d contend that, by that bounce theory, we’ll see more of the 2011 edition of Price than 2012. Just as a team that has demonstrated capability previously will often return to that level after laying an egg, so should a player, given raw talent, competitive drive and in Price’s case, a rehabilitated offensive line.

Partly because of not buying into Price, the magazines aren’t especially bullish on Washington, which probably suits the Huskies just fine. Sporting News figures Oregon State to be good enough to relegate the UW to fourth, behind Stanford, Oregon and the Beavers. Athlon pegs the Huskies for a 7-5 season, 4-5 in the Pac-12, and if that happens, you can assume there will be a considerable herd of wolves howling at Steve Sarkisian’s door.

In that vein, though, Sporting News makes a worthwhile point: The Huskies have their putative tougher league games on the road — Stanford, Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon State — while they get a lot of the perceived weaker teams at home in Arizona, Cal, Colorado and WSU. That’s usually a hard recipe for a team hoping to be upwardly mobile. A contending team typically is better served by having the more rugged games at home, where the friendly fans can help, while on the road it can survive on talent (at least that’s the theory).

If you buy into that line of thought, it makes the home date against Oregon Oct. 12 — the exception to that easier-ones-on-Montlake pattern — that much more pivotal for Washington.

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