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#20 Washington Huskies Preview – 2014

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Washington Huskies Preview – 2014

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Reminder for first time readers: The CFBMatrix is built on simplicity. For predictions and previews I use only my trends and rankings of Talent, Location (schedule) and Coaching. T.L.C.

Talent:

You may find a number of Husky fans rationalizing a recruiting class that ranked36th this year. The bottom line is this class was a step back in overall talent for the future. Talent wins games, and great talent wins championships. Most fans may not realize that heading into 2013, Washington was the No. 18 recruiter (post-attrition) of the previous four years. Considering that all of the national title participants of the last nine years were teams ranked in the top 16 in terms of talent coming into their national title game season, UW was a fringe elite program for a season. However, the talent under-performed the schedule for the fifth straight year under former coach Steve Sarkisian. Most programs recruit to a range-bound average, so I expect new UW coach Chris Petersen and his staff to keep Washington in the top 20 going forward.
The Huskies are 20th nationally and fourth in the Pac 12 in roster talent, making them dangerous every Saturday. They only return 31 percent of their key offensive production metrics, but 70 percent of their defensive production is back from last season. The Pac 12 is loaded offensively, so that defense is going to need to answer the bell early and often as the offense gets experience under the new coaching staff.

Coaching:

While great coaching is not always transferable (see the last time a head coach left great success at Boise and went to Colorado), it is a much better bet than hiring a guy for his name not his record (talking to you Kansas). It is easy to overlook, but while at Boise State, Petersen enjoyed the position of out-recruiting all of their conference opponents. Nevertheless, he won when he was supposed to win and sprinkled in some wins that made us all go ‘Wow!’ The bottom line is Washington has a higher potential win ceiling with Petersen. Sarkisian maxed out at minus-1 coach effect, meaning he averaged 1 game under CFB Matrix talent/schedule projections each year. If Petersen can replicate his even or plus-1 game coach effect seasons he had at Boise then this program will be winning 9 to 11 games per year.

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Schedule:

Home field advantage can be critical to success in competitive Pac 12 North, where several teams have close in talent. This year, the scheduling gods, with a little help from smart scheduling, have smiled upon the Huskies. The smart scheduling is the first four weeks. I do not buy into the strength-of-schedule mania. Seventy-five percent of the Huskies schedule is set with the Pac 12. An extra tough game means greater chance for loss or injury and undefeated in the Big 5 conferences is getting you into the playoff.
Undefeated is how the Huskies start the 2014 season, with wins over Hawaii, Eastern Washington, an extremely under-coached Illinois team and Georgia State. The first month brings health, experience and critical bonding with the new schemes and programs.

The first conference game and scheduling favor is at home in Week 5. There is no trap coming off of the Week 4 wins over Georgia State, and Stanford is coming off of a bye. Two years ago, Stanford came to Seattle and lost, and I am taking the Huskies again. Talent is very even, coaching is a lean to Shaw, but the home field tips the scale to Washington. I expect a very low scoring affair in this battle for second place in the Pac 12 North, before UW hits their first bye in Week 6.

Week 7 brings a road trip to Cal. Watch out. Although the Bears’ record was poor and offense largely ineffective, this is a trap game at Cal with a trip to Autzen Stadium on the horizon. The only edge Cal has is home field, and, under ex-coach Jeff Tedford, that brought no additional strength in the past. Washington runs its record to 6-0 and into the top 25.

Predicting a loss is pretty easy in Week 8. Oregon has a talent advantage and home field in its favor. Although Autzen is not and will not be as raucous as in years past, it is nevertheless a tough place to try and pull a W.

The downside to this 13-game schedule is no second bye in October or November. The Huskies play eight straight games in 2014. With new coaching and this tiring stretch, I expect a game or two to be dropped that might make you scratch your head. However, after the loss to the Ducks, the Huskies’ three toughest opponents–Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon Stat–are all at home.
Week 9 at home with the Sun Devils is tough, with ASU coming off of a bye. Of the two upsets that are projected for UW, this one is circled, even though the simple metrics of the CFB Matrix takes Washington. After an easy win at Colorado, the Huskies return to host UCLA. This is one of three games in which the Huskies face a talent deficit. However, it is not a significant enough gap to not take them to win in another scheduling break. Bruins coach Jim Mora has been right in line with CFB Matrix projections. UCLA has won just one game that I picked them to lose on the road.

The last three weeks are all games in which the Huskies have a significant talent edge. Even though two of three are on the road, I am taking Washington to win them all.

If you have been counting it up, this puts their talent/schedule projections in the CFB Matrix at an amazing 12-1. However, the Pac 12 metrics and new head coach trends say don’t bet that total. I expect an odd one or two losses to well-coached teams (OSU, ASU, UA) and another loss to a more-talented team at home (UCLA or SU). This puts me in a spot of nine to 10 wins and a top 25 finish to the regular season. My personal lean is 10 because of the coach effect history of Petersen. There are plenty of Husky fans out there that would be just happy to see nine in win column.

Dave’s Quick and Dirty CFBMatrix Preview:

They have a higher talent ranking than ten of the teams on their schedule for a talent only baseline record of 10-3.  Adjust up 2 games for home wins versus Stanford and UCLA and the record is 12-1. Down -1 games for a new head coach and have 11-2 with my favorite middle number at 10.5.

2014 Win Loss Schedule Pattern

W, W, W, W, W, bye, W, L, W, W, W, W, W, W (-2 games for new head coach) 10-3 and  (t) 2nd Pac12 North

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