Colorado vs. Washington: Score and Reaction from 2016 Pac-12 Championship

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2016

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 02:  Head coach Chris Petersen of the Washington Huskies is awarded the Pac-12 Championship game trophy after they beat the Colorado Buffaloes at Levi's Stadium on December 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The No. 4 Washington Huskies were the class of the Pac-12 all season long, and they reaffirmed their status as the West Coast's top team Friday night when they dispatched the No. 8 Colorado Buffaloes 41-10 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, to capture the program's first conference title since 2000.   

By virtue of the win, the Huskies are in prime position to lock up a College Football Playoff berth Sunday when the final rankings are revealed.  

And as USA Today's Dan Wolken explained, Washington should be competitive regardless of who its CFP opponent is thanks to the man calling the shots: 

Colorado's offense was largely stymied by the Washington defense in the rout, and it didn't help that quarterback Sefo Liufau missed all but one series in the first half after he suffered an apparent right ankle injury on the Buffaloes' first possession of the game. 

Liufau returned in the second half, but the Huskies' sterling secondary limited him to 21 yards passing all game. And he finished with three interceptions. 

However, Washington's passing game didn't fare much better despite the lopsided result. Heisman Trophy contender Jake Browning completed nine of 24 passes for 118 yards and two scores, and he looked shaky in the pocket all night long.  

Matched up against a robust Colorado secondary that was allowing a Pac-12 best 187.8 passing yards per game, Browning had trouble trying to stretch the field. His deep balls were wobbly and underthrown, and Bleacher Report's Matt Miller and NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah both took note of the rising star's struggles: 

But even through Browning was limited to four completions for 38 yards—including a 15-yard touchdown pass to Darrell Danielsin the first half, Washington's running game piled up yards aplenty behind Myles Gaskin (29 carries for 159 yards) and Lavon Coleman (18 carries for 101 yards and one touchdown). 

Both tough runners ripped off chunks of yards before contact because of stellar blocking up front, and their stylings set the tone for a Huskies offense that leaned on the ground game to move the chains. 

Colorado was able to hang tough for a bit after Liufau briefly exited because of backup Steven Montez's poise, but yards didn't come quite as easily for the Buffaloes after they knotted the score at seven in the first quarter. 

Nevertheless, Colorado entered halftime down only a touchdown since the Huskies weren't able to rip off explosive plays downfield. 

Liufau returned to action in the third quarter and figured to offer some hope, but his first play back under center resulted in an interception Taylor Rapp returned 35 yards to the house: 

With Washington up two scores, College Football Talk's Bryan Fischer explained that the Huskies' 10th-ranked scoring defense remains one of the nation's most dangerous despite some injury woes: 

Liufau's night didn't get any easier from that point forward.  

Rapp picked off the senior again on Colorado's next series, and the turnover issues were glaring considering Liufau tossed a total of three interceptions during the Buffaloes' regular-season slate.  

At that point, the Huskies could smell a playoff berth. 

A field goal put the Dawgs up 24-7, and their defense started to swarm with Colorado resigned to throwing on a majority of its snaps from that point forward. 

As if that weren't enough, it became clear the Huskies were playing with house money when Browning tossed an errant pass under pressure that wide receiver John Ross snatched out of thin air and ran in for a dagger score: 

With the Pac-12 title in tow, the Huskies should be feeling good about their College Football Playoff chances.

While a loss would have opened the door for the Michigan Wolverines or the Big Ten champion to sneak in and swap spots, the one-loss Huskies shouldn't be in danger of moving outside of the Top Four with Michigan idle Saturday. 

The question now revolves around where Washington will land when the selection committee releases its final CFP rankings.

Although the Ohio State Buckeyes are slotted in at No. 2, the fact they're not playing in the Big Ten title game following last Saturday's win over the Wolverines means the Huskies could jump up a spot since they have a conference title to their name. 

And based on the convincing fashion in which they slammed the door on Colorado, it would be hard to argue against a leap up to the No. 3 spot as the committee begins to ramp up the deliberation process. 

             

Postgame Reaction

Christian Caple of the Tacoma News Tribune snapped video of Rapp accepting Pac-12 title game MVP honors: 

Later, Washington's official Twitter account relayed footage of the team's confetti-clad celebration: 

When asked if the Huskies belong in the playoff, head coach Chris Petersen was adamant his squad deserves a spot. 

"I think there's no doubt about that," he said, per ESPN.com's Kyle Bonagura

On Colorado's end, co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini and wide receiver Bryce Bobo both tweeted messages following the loss: 

"We just didn't perform tonight," Liufau said, per ESPN.com's David Lombardi

But despite the quarterback's disappointment, head coach Mike MacIntyre was thrilled with the season his team put together. 

"I couldn't be any prouder of them," he said, per the Denver Post's Nick Kosmider. "They brought the Folsom magic back. We'll bounce back."

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