On Washington's big-picture opportunity, plus one last prediction
Can the Huskies do it one more time?
HOUSTON — I’ve been thinking a lot this week about Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, and a certain football game played that day in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The Washington Huskies were no match for the Michigan Wolverines, one week after the Huskies had suffered maybe the most embarrassing defeat in program history, to Montana at Husky Stadium, in their opener. They started 0-2 in coach Jimmy Lake’s first full season, their preseason expectations already dashed.
But in addition to Washington looking physically overmatched against a Michigan team that wound up in that year’s College Football Playoff, you knew those programs were miles apart based on atmosphere alone.
Here’s what I wrote from The Big House that night:
“Saturday truly provided a lesson in all the things UW is not. Ann Arbor is a marvel on a fall Saturday. The fans know all their cues. They party all day and are in their seats at kickoff. Among Michigan Stadium’s more modern traditions is a singalong to The Killers’ popular party anthem, ‘Mr. Brightside.’ The students pretty obviously know the words better than the rest of the crowd, but the number of fans who shout the lyrics still is something to behold.”
The Wolverines now have reached the CFP in three consecutive seasons, but at the time, they hadn’t even won a conference championship since 2004. Yet attendance that day was announced at 108,345. The crowd sang and chanted in unison. It felt big-time. And it felt like something Washington — even considering its own traditions and relatively invested fan base — was a long way from achieving on a regular basis.