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 of their remaining games, and there is no game remaining on their schedule in which their chances of victory are less than 70.8 percent.
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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 for 109 yards, 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 and was wearing a boot at practice today, according to The Oregonian.
UTAH TIME SET
Washington’s Oct. 29 game at No. 19 Utah will kickoff at 12:30 p.m. (PDT) and air on FOX Sports 1.
It will be the Huskies’ second game this season to kickoff before 1 p.m.
Huskies opponent this week
OREGON STATE BEAVERS (2-4 overall, 1-2 in Pac-12)
3:30 P.M. SATURDAY, HUSKY STADIUM, PAC-12 NETWORKS, 1000-AM/97.7-FM
COACH: Gary Andersen (4-14 in 2nd year at OSU; 53-52 in 9th year overall)
AGAINST THE HUSKIES: Washington leads the series 62-34-4.
SCOUTING REPORT: One year removed from an 0-9 record in Pac-12 play, the Beavers are better, but not by a whole lot. They did beat California in overtime on Oct. 8, but followed that performance with an ugly loss to Utah in which OSU completed just 9 of its 30 pass attempts for 100 yards in wet, windy conditions. … The Beavers enter Saturday’s game without their first and second-string quarterbacks, as starter Darell Garretson broke his ankle against Utah and backup Conor Blount, a true freshman walk-on, is still on crutches. So third-stringer Marcus McMaryion, a third-year sophomore, will make his second career start against the Huskies. He finished last week’s game, completing 5 of 9 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. … OSU’s leading rusher, Ryan Nall, is also injured, and was wearing a walking boot at the Beavers’ Monday practice, according to the Oregonian. OSU’s second-leading rusher is Artavis Pierce, who has 262 yards and a touchdown on 48 carries. … Senior receiver Victor Bolden Jr. is OSU’s best player. He is second on the team in receiving with 22 catches for 197 yards and a touchdown, and is third in rushing with 222 yards and a touchdown on just 17 carries. The Beavers’ top receiver is Seth Collins, who spent much of last season as the team’s starting quarterback. He has 26 receptions for 286 yards this year. ... Overall, the Beavers average only 5.02 yards per offensive play, which ranks 111th in the country. … OSU’s defense hasn’t been very good, either. The Beavers rank 112th nationally in yards per rush allowed at 5.18, and they rank 88th in scoring defense even after holding Utah to just 19 points. … They’re much better against the pass, ranking ninth nationally in passing efficiency defense and seventh in yards per attempt allowed (5.4). They have allowed only four passing touchdowns and have five interceptions, and opponents complete only 55 percent of their passes against the Beavers.
DID YOU KNOW: Washington has won its last four games against Oregon State by a combined score of 178-64.