SEATTLE (AP) - For someone who tries to keep everything as even as possible, this week is a major challenge for Washington coach Chris Petersen.
There’s no getting around the enormity of the opportunity in front of the 10th-ranked Huskies when they host No. 7 Stanford.
After years of reconstructing their program - first under Steve Sarkisian and now Petersen - the Huskies (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have a chance to prove their top-10 ranking this season is justified and that they are the team to beat in the Pac-12 Conference at this point. Or Friday night could end up exposing Washington as not quite ready to rejoin the college football elite.
Either way, it’s the most significant game in Petersen’s three seasons and arguably the game with the most at stake for Washington since it last went to the Rose Bowl in 2000.
“It’s a great opportunity for the kids, for everybody playing in a game like this,” Petersen said.
It’s also a historically rare ranked home game for the Huskies. It’ll be the fourth all-time meeting of teams ranked in the AP Top 10 in Seattle and the first in 19 years. The last time came in 1997 when No. 7 Nebraska beat No. 2 Washington 27-14.
And it comes after Washington barely passed its first real challenge of the season this past weekend at Arizona.
Washington survived its trip to the desert, winning in the state of Arizona for the first time in 10 years with a 35-28 overtime win over the Wildcats late Saturday. With a Friday game, everything is condensed this week. The Huskies returned to Seattle around 5 a.m. Sunday, with many watching tape on the flight home. The players came in for practice on Sunday night and practiced Monday - a normal day off for the team.
On top of the condensed week, classes for the Huskies begin Wednesday.
“We’ve been looking at this part of our schedule for a long time,” Petersen said. “On the road, tough environment, have to come home and play Stanford and then go on the road again. We get the schedule and then we make our schedule and adjust and go.”
The performance in the desert exposed some of Washington’s flaws that were hidden by a weak nonconference schedule and three blowout victories to open the season. Most notably, the Huskies allowed 308 yards rushing to the Wildcats as they were unable to control the line of scrimmage. Those rushing yards allowed came against Arizona’s spread offense. But it raised concern the Huskies won’t be any better facing Stanford’s power run game and star Christian McCaffrey this week.
“He’s great with the ball in his hands. Unbelievable vision, extremely explosive and maybe as patient as anybody I’ve seen,” Petersen said. “Whether he’s returning kicks or handing the ball in the backfield, those characteristics just show up, and it’s a unique combination.”
The biggest positive to come out of the Arizona victory was the emergence of running back Lavon Coleman as a complementary option to Myles Gaskin in the backfield. Coleman rushed for a career-high 181 yards on just 11 carries, surpassing his rushing total from all of last year in one impressive outing.
“We have a good stable of running backs, and those guys can all make plays,” Petersen said. “When they get the chance to do it and they make something happen, they’ll get more carries. That’s just kind of how we did it.”
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