SEATTLE – The Washington Huskies must contend with a dangerous opponent this week.
They also have to play a football game against Oregon State.
But as the Beavers enter Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. game at Husky Stadium as five-touchdown underdogs – and with third-string quarterback Marcus McMaryion forced into a starting role due to injuries – the Huskies’ biggest challenge this week, and for the remainder of this season, might simply be combating the expectation that they should win the rest of their games and earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Such speculation is warranted. ESPN’s “Football Power Index” (FPI) gives the Huskies a 26.1 percent chance of winning all their remaining games, and there is no game left on their schedule in which their chances of victory are less than 70.8 percent.
According to ESPN’s FPI, the Huskies have a 57.7 percent chance of winning the Pac-12 championship. They’re already ranked No. 5 in both major polls. CBS and other outlets currently project UW as a playoff team.
UW coach Chris Petersen cringes at the thought of UW’s players basking in this midseason accomplishment, of course. But he has to address it, if only to tell his guys that they should ignore it.
With the Huskies coming off a bye week, Petersen said he had that very conversation during a Sunday team meeting.
“It really is hard. … There’s just so many outside influences,” Petersen said Monday. “As much as you know, you probably still don’t know how much is coming at these kids from all different directions with everybody. Human nature is what it is. We’re foolish to think that doesn’t have an effect on our team and our mindset.”
As Petersen admits, “it’s kind of fun to have somebody write really cool things about you and tell you how great you are. That’s just human nature. So how can that not affect you?”
It’s a quandary with which Petersen and many of his assistants are familiar. His Boise State teams won 92 games in eight years; the Broncos couldn’t lose a single game without the season feeling like something of a disappointment.
Those teams succeeded in setting aside external matters, Petersen said, because “those kids did what we were asking them to do. They were pretty focused on the important things, and I think our coaching staff did a really good job of paying attention to those things and fighting that battle all the time.”
What about the Huskies, 6-0 and ranked in the top-10 nationally in scoring offense and scoring defense?
“I think one of the things that’s been so great about these guys is how they’ve competed with an edge,” Petersen said. “So how do you keep doing that and just really compete at your best? And you always have to have an edge when you compete at your best. Everything on the outside kind of works against that right now.”
Oregon State’s injury situation is not ideal for a team about to face the nation’s No. 5 team on the road.
Not only is starting quarterback Darell Garretson out for the season due to a broken ankle he sustained during last week’s 19-14 loss to Utah, but backup quarterback Conor Blount is also out this week with a knee injury.
That means McMaryion, a third-year sophomore, will make his second career start on Saturday. He completed 5 of 9 pass attempts for 76 yards and a touchdown against Utah. The Huskies have seen McMaryion before, during last season’s 52-7 UW victory in Corvallis, in which McMaryion relieved starter Seth Collins and completed 8 of 16 passes for 109 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
He made his first career start in last season’s finale against Oregon.
OSU might also be without its top rusher, Ryan Nall, who had only one carry against Utah. He was wearing a boot at practice Monday, according to the Oregonian.
Utah time set
Washington’s Oct. 29 game at 19th-ranked Utah will kick off at 12:30 p.m. and air on Fox Sports 1.
It will be the Huskies’ second game this season to kickoff before 1 p.m.
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