No. 15: Washington

Remember, as a kid, racing across the street to tell your friend a juicy secret?

You: “Did you hear Bobby Van Pelt tripped in a gopher hole at Bamboo Forest and shot himself in the eye with a pellet gun?”

Friend: “Man, that happened yesterday…where have you been?”

That’s sort of the way Rankman feels about the Washington Huskies. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

The secret is out. Turns out a dark horse team we had tucked in our hip pocket, ready to unleash on the world, is everybody’s dark horse.

Case in point: Rankman was thumbing through Phil Steele’s preseason college football magazine and flipped to Washington on page 114. Now, you need a magnifying glass to read the fine print of Steele’s intricate team breakdowns, but luckily a team of optometrists was able to decipher Phil’s words in his summary report: “Washington gets the call as my top, non-top 10 team I think can win the National Title.”

Even more confusing is Steele having Washington at No. 8 in his preseason top 40.

ESPN the magazine also picked Washington to win the Pac 12 North wondering “is this the year the Huskies leap Oregon and Stanford for the Pac-12 title?”

Athlon lists Washington first among its “Teams on the Rise.”

That's when Rankman asked the waiter for his Puget Sound check.

At least west coast writers, who actually follow the league, had the decency to pick defending champion Stanford in its annual media poll. It was the first time Stanford had ever been so anointed.

So, well, anyway, my excitement over Washington has grown tepid knowing other people are also onto the Huskies.

There is still a lot to like, starting with a team that returns a quality starting quarterback: Jake Browning, and a quality starting coach: Chris Petersen.

Now in his third year after a sputtering 15-12 start, Coach Pete has Washington looking like one of his powerhouse teams at Boise, which really is a compliment. Washington led the Pac 12 in defense last year, while the offense returns Browning, who shined as a true frosh last year and a 1,000-yard rusher in Myles Gaskin.

One extra bonus on offense is the return of multi-threat receiver John Ross, who missed last year with an injury.

The schedule also sets up nicely for a team looking to get in College Football Playoff schedule, starting with home games against Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State.

We’ll know Washington is taking things seriously if it blows out Rutgers, as it should, in the opener. Washington also gets Stanford and USC in Seattle this year.

Washington, of course, can’t really be trusted until it breaks a 12-game losing streak against rival Oregon, which hosts the Huskies in Eugene on Oct. 8.

So, yeah, after two years, this is starting to feel like Boise, except Boise never had to navigate in a division as tough as the Pac 12 North.

“What’s different is we won at Boise,” Petersen, who posted a remarkable 92-12 record at Potato State, said. “We haven’t won like we need to win.”

So, yeah, the attention is nice and everything but.…

“I mean,” Petersen said, “it would be nice if we could actually do something before somebody said something really good or really bad about us.”

Silly coach--no one has time to wait for the actual games.

Rankman's countdown so far: No. 16 Boise State [/membership]