Two proud Pac-12 teams.
Three losses apiece.
Each has a great but gimpy running back who likely won’t play.
Both are coming off a tough loss—by 2 and 3 points—to each other’s rival team.
Both expected so much more entering this season.
The all-time series stands dead even at 42-42-4.
- OK, in the first of 10 questions surrounding this Saturday night match-up under the stars and without them, what possibly could set these disappointed and disappointing Washington and Stanford football teams apart?
The Cardinal, with KJ Costello personally enjoying a productive season, have quarterback serenity. The Huskies do not. It will be interesting to see how Jake Browning responds to getting benched for Jake Haener at Cal; he might feel compelled to press even more to show everyone how wrong that was.
- What is Browning thinking these days?
Who knows? In its paranoia-induced way of controlling the media message surrounding this buttoned-down program, the UW hasn’t permitted Browning to take questions since the Huskies played and beat Colorado at home on Oct. 20—coming up on two full weeks, which seems ridiculous for a starting quarterback. He is still the starter, isn’t he? Legendary Seattle sportswriters Georg N. Meyers and John Owen no doubt are turning over in their graves over this lack of access.
- Who will be the biggest loser this weekend?
The fans, of course. They won’t get to see Stanford’s Bryce Love or UW’s Myles Gaskin at full speed, if at all, with both senior running backs considered game-day decisions on whether or not they play. Love has a bad ankle, Gaskin a sore shoulder. Love has piled up 3,546 career rushing yards, but just 419 this season. Gaskin has generated 4,678 career yards on the ground, only 623 this fall. May the best back-up back shine.
- How has highly regarded local product Foster Sarell fared with the Cardinal?
That’s another unfortunate football story. Sarell, from Graham, Washington, and considered the country’s top lineman prospect in 2017 when he chose Stanford over the Huskies, won’t play this weekend. The sophomore left guard injured his right knee against USC, falling awkwardly over his quarterback on a pass play in Stanford’s second outing. He’s logged 16 games for the Cardinal, all as a reserve. This would have been his first time to play at home as a collegian.
- What’s the best individual match-up to watch for?
Stanford wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside vs. Huskies cornerback Byron Murphy. The Cardinal pass-catcher, a big body at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, ranks second in the league with 47 receptions and has scored 11 times. Murphy is way overdue for his first interception this season.
- How far have the Huskies fallen?
They began the week by dropping out of the national rankings for the first time in three seasons. Another indicator of decline is their TV platform this week—they’re relegated to the Pac-12 Network for just the second time all season, which means the game doesn’t have a whole lot riding on it or much ratings appeal. The UW’s other league network broadcast came against North Dakota. The last time the UW and Stanford played in Seattle in 2016, they had a Friday night all to themselves on ESPN; last year in Palo Alto, they played before FOX Sports 1 cameras.
- What’s riding on this game?
While the Huskies and the Cardinal each remain eligible to claim the Pac-12 championship and earn a post-Christmas bowl game if they can win out, these teams have been so compromised by injuries and underachievement, they could be staring at playing in any number of bowl games that will have them home before the new year. Cheez-It or Redbox Bowl anyone?
- Will Jake Haener play this weekend?
- Even if the Huskies are up or down by three touchdowns entering the fourth quarter?
- So who wins this Pac-12 consolation game?
While Chris Petersen carries a weighty coaching reputation and is the right guy for Washington, with or without his restrictive media policies, he made a huge miscalculation by yanking his four-year starting quarterback for an inexperienced player midstream at Berkeley. Look for the Huskies to have a post-Halloween hangover because of this—they entered last weekend in costume as one of the nation’s top 15 teams and came out of it wearing nothing but tatters. The Huskies, even with all that talent on the roster, could end up with defeat No. 4 on Saturday. Honest. Stanford 24, Washington 21.