The thought of Washington repeating last year’s run to the College Football Playoff wasn’t all that outlandish entering Friday night’s game at Stanford. The ninth-ranked Huskies entered 8-1 and, even with a schedule that hasn’t exactly been taxing, would be the prime recipients should chaos unfold above them in the polls. All they had to do was shut down the Cardinal, beat struggling Utah at home next weekend, win their Apple Cup game against Washington State, also in Seattle, and then win the Pac-12 title game.
But Washington on Friday lost to Stanford, 30-22, and the playoff almost certainly isn’t going to happen for the Huskies or anyone else in the Pac-12. No team with two losses has made college football’s final four, and the conference now is fresh out of one-loss teams. The Pac-12’s best, faint hope now lies with Southern California, ranked 11th in the latest poll. If the Trojans beat the two mediocre teams left on their schedule (Colorado, UCLA) and then defeat Washington, Washington State or Stanford in the conference title game, they could have a shot. All it would take is things going absolutely haywire with the zero- and one-loss teams above them in the poll. All eight of them.
Look at it this way: If the playoff committee refused to admit a two-loss Penn State team even though the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten, it is not going to admit a two-loss Pac-12 team this year.
It was prototypical Stanford win in that it never gave Washington’s offense much of a chance to do anything, especially as the game wore on. Running back Bryce Love re-aggravated the injured ankle that has bothered him for about a month in the first quarter, yet he still rushed for 166 yards and three scores on 30 carries. The Cardinal converted nine of its first 13 third-down conversions and held the ball for nearly 19 minutes in the second half. Stanford became the first team to score 30 points on Washington’s defense — which entered the game second nationally in points allowed per game — in 24 games.
“They just played their game better than we played our game,” Washington Coach Chris Petersen said, via the Seattle Times. “They hold the ball, grind up time, try to limit your possessions, and they did exactly that.”
And like that, Washington hopes of a repeat visit to the College Football Playoffs were over, as were the rest of the Pac-12’s.
“We never talk about playoffs. Ever,’’ Petersen said. “So that’s not even a discussion. We just play two more games and focused on the next one.”
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