Washington's good -- better than in a long while, it appears.
The No. 10 Huskies came into Friday night's game against No. 7 Stanford without a loss, but they hadn't yet gotten a chance to prove they could swing with the big boys and beat them. Stanford has some of the biggest boys around, and it didn't matter. The Huskies boat-raced the Cardinal from the outset, attacking Stanford all over and never letting up. By the time the purple smoke lifted in Seattle, it was 44-6, Washington. It was never close.
Stanford entered with a bunch of injuries, including to its top two cornerbacks. The Cardinal started two backups, and Washington threw at both of them for big plays on its first-possession touchdown drive. The Huskies just kept coming, bulldozing Stanford's vaunted offensive line at one moment and corralling Christian McCaffrey at the next.
Maybe that was the biggest thing. Of course Washington exploited Stanford's backups in the secondary, but the Huskies went after Stanford's strengths, too. That behemoth offensive line that inspired our Shakespearean love letter just on Thursday? Allowed eight sacks. Stanford's talented defensive front? Got zero. McCaffrey, the deadliest running back in all the land? Had 12 carries for 49 yards.
It was a blowout. Washington is 5-0 and in total control of the Pac-12 North. UW is the conference's best Playoff hope by a mile, and come Sunday, it will almost surely have its highest AP Poll ranking since finishing No. 3 after 2000.
The Huskies entered the year with a whole lot of hype.
Friday was a chance for validation. They seized it.
The Huskies were brilliant immediately. Stanford ran four plays for 13 yards to start the game, then immediately gave up a seven-play, 64-yard touchdown drive over the next three minutes.
Washington just kept running it up, tossing Stanford's quarterbacks to the ground. When McCaffrey got the ball, he didn't usually go anywhere. Sometimes Stanford tried to run the ball without him, and the entire operation looked like this mess:
This, also, simply isn't Stanford's brand:
What are you doing tonight, Stanford? pic.twitter.com/HGWS5zbpPB— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) October 1, 2016
Maybe Washington just demoralized them. Whatever it was, it was bad. Washington decided to use a 16-play, 75-yard, nearly 10-minute touchdown drive in the fourth quarter as an exclamation point, but the game was already long over.
Stanford's supposed to be a safe bet. The Cardinal are usually great, and when they're not, they're still not bad. Oregon's blown them out a few times since Shaw took over in 2011, and Arizona State beat them by 16 a couple of years ago. But almost always, they'd been competitive up and down Shaw's 71 games helming the program. This isn't a team that's supposed to get crushed, and Washington went ahead and stomped it like a bug.
The stat sheet paints an obliterative picture. Washington quarterback Jake Browning was 15-of-21 passing for 210 yards and three scores. The yardage totals were 424 for Washington, 213 for Stanford.
The Huskies have been here before, most recently about 15 years ago.
Washington won a national title in 1991. The school honored that team on Friday, because sometimes timing is poetry. But the Huskies have had other good years since then, including an 11-1 Rose Bowl year in 2000 and an 8-4 season in 2001 that wrapped with the Huskies ranked 19th in the country. They haven't finished higher than 25th since. But even that year wasn't everything it could've been.
In 2001, Stanford came to Seattle in November, ranked No. 10 against the No. 11 Huskies. Washington delivered a hurting that day, too, winning 42-28 to move to 7-1. UW closed the year meekly, though, losing three of its last four, including the Holiday Bowl against Texas. The start was good, but the finish wasn't.
Now the Huskies have a chance to do it better. They're in the North's driver's seat, and they're better than anyone in the conference's South. The Playoff's sitting there for them, and everyone else should be scared of them.