Last week saw the Washington Huskies declaw their rival Washington State Cougars in the 104th Apple Cup. With the victory, the Huskies finished their season strongly, upping their record to 7-5.
No matter what happens in the to-be-determined bowl game, UW will have a winning season for the first time since 2002, when they finished 7-6 under then-coach Rick Neuheisel. That season was the last time the Huskies completed consecutive winning seasons. So Steve Sarkisian and Company will temporarily revel in that accomplishment for their budding and maturing program.
In the meantime, while the Huskies finish eating their apple pies from last weekend, they await a decision on which bowl game they will play in this postseason. Given their 7-5 record—tied for fourth best in the Pac-12 conference (USC, however, at 10-2 is ineligible for postseason)—the Huskies have a few opportunities in front of them. The likely potential bowl destinations are either the Holiday Bowl in San Diego (Dec. 28) or the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio (Dec. 29). But multiple variables will determine where Washington will play come bowl season.
First, is the result of this weekend’s inaugural Pac-12 championship game. If UCLA miraculously wins, they put a huge wrench in the gears, as the Bruins would garner an automatic bid for the Rose Bowl. Runner-up Oregon would then fall to a potential BCS bowl instead, dropping Stanford to a non-BCS bowl, likely the Holiday Bowl. However, the BCS standings also need to shake themselves out to determine where the Pac-12’s best of the best—Oregon and Stanford—will play.
That said, all Washington can do for the time being is wait. But they’ll likely circle their calendars for the end of December and somewhere warm—Texas or sunny Southern California.
If the Huskies play in either the Holiday or the Alamo Bowl, they’ll almost surely face a Big 12 team, so there are no preferences in opponent. They have been mostly unsuccessful against Big 12 foes of late. They are 1-4 in their last five games versus the Big 12, their lone win coming against Nebraska in last year’s Holiday Bowl (the Cornhuskers have since moved to the Big Ten.) So in whichever setting and site, the Huskies will have to overcome a formidable opponent from a very strong conference.
Washington played in last season’s Holiday Bowl, so it might be a nice change of scenery to play elsewhere. Neither bowl particularly has more prestige than the other. But it might be a pleasant change of pace to see how the Huskies match up in a true road game in the heart of Texas—the Alamo Bowl.
At the end of it all, the Huskies would probably prefer to not have to travel to a different time zone—San Antonio. Staying on the West Coast, Washington would certainly have a great fan following, as they always do when in California. The Dawgs' pound is completely full on the Pacific Coast, so the Huskies would experience another minor home-field advantage—at least in terms of the potential attendees in San Diego.
On the flip side, if UW travels to the Old West in San Antonio, they’ll have to keep in mind that they won’t have a home-field advantage in the Alamo. Potential opponents could be Baylor, Missouri and even the Texas. Baylor and Texas would undoubtedly have the majority of the Alamo Bowl with their respective alumni. Missouri would easily outnumber Huskies fans as well.
It would be a real test for this blossoming squad of Husky puppies to measure just how far they have come under Sarkisian’s tenure. If they can win a game on a neutral field that isn’t so neutral, they could come out as a program that is on the rise, one that is on the precipice of becoming a strong team from the Pac-12. If they do not win, then they’ll know just where they stand against the nation’s elite.
The Huskies would probably like to take the quick trip to sunny San Diego, a familiar location in a familiar atmosphere with a more familiar crowd. But if the young leaders like quarterback Keith Price and Chris Polk want to prove that Washington is on the verge of returning to Pac-12 glory, the Huskies will want to remember their victory in the Alamo Bowl this December.