Huskies back in Top 25 just in time for Stanford
When Washington made a brief one-week appearance in the AP Top 25 two seasons ago, it was a reward for pulling off a monumental upset of then-No. 3 USC in the third week of a season following a winless campaign.
It was a nice gesture by the voters, but not a representation of where the Huskies deserved to be ranked at that time.
''The perception of us the first time around was off; we weren't that good yet,'' Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. ''I think we're a pretty dang good football team, we'll see how we do but we got to play to who we are. I think the first time around, three years ago, we weren't that good. We weren't a Top 25 team at that point.''
Now that the Huskies are back in the Top 25 this week at No. 22, it's a more deserved ranking following the first 5-1 start in a decade, capped by last Saturday's 52-24 drubbing of Colorado. That 2001 season was also the last time Washington finished the season ranked.
Washington hasn't been ranked this high this late in the season since 2002, when the Huskies started the season ranked No. 11, and were No. 22 in the country before a three-game losing streak in October that started with a 41-21 loss to USC. They began the next season in the Top 25 again, and were ranked as high as No. 18 into early October before a 30-point loss at UCLA sent them tumbling from the polls.
Since then, there was just the one-week appearance two years ago, a stark indication of just how far the Huskies dropped out of the national spotlight.
But the difficult part of the Huskies' schedule begins this week at No. 7 Stanford, which shut out the Huskies 41-0 last year in Seattle. If perceptions weren't already changing about the job Sarkisian has done rebuilding the Huskies program, a win over the team with the longest current winning streak in the nation just might do it.
''This is the biggest game we've played in in a long time,'' Washington safety Justin Glenn said. ''I think we know that. Everybody knows that. I think we're going to have to prepare really well in order to get this victory.''
After the trip to Stanford, the Huskies return home for games against Arizona and No. 9 Oregon - the final game at Husky Stadium before a massive renovation - then close the year at USC, at Oregon State and against rival Washington State.
With the way the schedule lines up, there will be opportunities for the Huskies to raise their profile even more.
''Our perception of ourselves hasn't changed; it's the perception of what other people think of us has changed,'' Sarkisian said. ''To me, that's what polls are about. They're perception. We really don't know. ... Our perception is where we are. We came into the Top 25, and that doesn't have to be the reality if we don't want it to be. We can perform better than that, or we can perform worse than that. The challenge is to play to the perception of ourselves.''
What has helped the Huskies gain national recognition is the performance of their offense throughout the season. The victory over Colorado featured touchdowns on their first five possessions, and points the first six times they had the ball overall. The result was 38 first-half points, the most by the Huskies in a half since 1999, when Washington posted 45 in the first half against Oregon State. The Huskies have also scored 30 or more points in their first six games for the first time in school history.
Sophomore quarterback Keith Price continued his stellar play, throwing four touchdown passes in the first half and raising his season total to 21, good for second best in the country. He's tied with Boise State's Kellen Moore and one behind Baylor's Robert Griffin III.
''I think we've earned it,'' Price said of returning to the polls. ''We had a downfall against Nebraska but we bounced back and we deserve it.''
Follow Tim Booth on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ByTimBooth