One of the fun things about football is that every game counts ... a lot. Especially for a team like UW, which figures to be a borderline bowl contender with little margin for error. Every game really will be crucial as they add together into a season with profound implications for the program.
Still, some games create more buzz than others. So, here's my take on the season's 12 regular-season games, from lowest preseason buzz to highest. (And oddly, the lowest and highest are both opponents once coached by Tyrone Willingham.):
12 Stanford at UW (Sept. 27)
Stanford isn't an opponent that gets the blood boiling, yet this will still be an important game for both teams because both may have it mentally marked in the win column. Another UW home loss to the Cardinal could prove fatal to the Huskies' bowl math.
11 Arizona State at UW (Nov. 8)
Dennis Erickson's return to Puget Sound. But there's generally good feeling toward Erickson up here, along with a general assumption that he's got more horses than UW this season.
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10 Washington at Arizona (Oct. 4)
These are the two coaches generally considered to be on the two hottest seats in the Pac-10. The number of wins needed for continued employment becomes just that much tougher for the loser.
9 Oklahoma at UW (Sept. 13)
An early season match in which the Huskies seem to have far more to gain than to lose.
8 Brigham Young at UW (Sept. 6)
The second game of a season always feels big: a chance to jump to 2-0, or the pressure of avoiding 0-2. On top of that, the Huskies never want to lose to a mid-major at home. And the visitors know this one is crucial to their BCS bowl dreams.
7 UW at Southern California (Nov. 1)
This used to be a game with Rose Bowl implications. Now it's a chance for the Huskies to measure themselves against the best.
6 Oregon State at UW (Oct. 18)
The Huskies let one get away in Corvallis last season. They won't want to lose to a Northwest rival at home … especially with the Beavers in what appears to be rebuilding mode.
5 UW at Washington State (Nov. 22)
You know it's quite a season when there are four games that project as bigger than the Apple Cup. Yet, Husky Nation will grow mighty restless if Paul Wulff gets this W in his first season at Pullman.
4 UW at California (Dec. 6)
Depending on how the first 11 games play out, this season-ender could determine whether UW gets a winning record or a bowl bid … and all of the implications that accompany that.
3 UW at Oregon (Aug. 30)
The season-opener against the hated Ducks in raucous Autzen Stadium. It's a recipe for greatness or disaster. Starting with a conference game only adds to the importance. Conventional wisdom says it might be good to catch the Ducks early this season, but this will be a testing environment for all those young Huskies, too.
2 UCLA at UW (Nov. 15)
Rick Neuheisel returns to Husky Stadium. Enough said. Although -- trust me on this -- much more will be said.
1 Notre Dame at UW (Oct. 25)
The arrival of the Irish is always an event. But the sideshow of Charlie Weis vs. Tyrone Willingham will make this not only the UW game of the season, but one of the national games of the year.
We are 40 days until the season begins.