University of Washington

Looking at Washington’s playoff chances ahead of the Pac-12 championship game

For all the consternation about No. 5 Washington’s nonconference schedule, all of the early concerns about the Pac-12’s top-to-bottom strength, the Huskies’ path to inclusion in the College Football Playoff seems so simple now.

Win Friday’s Pac-12 championship game against Colorado at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, and the Huskies’ résumé should, at last, have the necessary shine to secure a spot in the CFP.

That’s what UW coach Chris Petersen thinks, anyway, and he isn’t exactly the type to prognosticate recklessly.

“I feel pretty good. Pretty confident,” Petersen said Monday, asked about UW’s chances. “I’ve always said that. We take care of business, everywhere I’ve been, those people usually do the right thing. Our whole focus, like you said, is on Colorado. We’ve got a big hurdle there, and if we can get over that hurdle … yeah.”

Of course, UW does not entirely control its postseason destination. The CFP committee will decide that, in the event of a Huskies victory. Assuming that No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Ohio State have already clinched their place in the four-team playoff – and they certainly have, regardless of the outcome of this weekend’s SEC championship game – there are two CFP spots available, and a handful of teams who still believe themselves worthy of selection.

Ohio State’s double-overtime victory over No. 3 Michigan makes the process a little more complex. The Buckeyes are 11-1 and a lock to make the playoff, but did not win their division and therefore will not win the Big Ten Championship. A pair of two-loss teams, Penn State and Wisconsin, will play for that title, meaning the winner will have a case to make the CFP.

Had Michigan beaten Ohio State, the Wolverines (10-2) – now all but eliminated from CFP contention – would have advanced to the Big Ten championship game to face Wisconsin. Had that happened, Ohio State likely would have been knocked from CFP consideration, ending the possibility of two Big Ten teams making the playoff.

Then there is No. 4 Clemson (11-1), which faces Virginia Tech in Saturday’s ACC championship game. Assuming the Tigers win, there will be five teams – one of them unbeaten (Alabama), three with one loss (Ohio State, Clemson and UW), one with two losses (Penn State or Wisconsin) – in the CFP mix come Dec. 4, when the final rankings are unveiled. But the Huskies are currently ranked ahead of both No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 7 Penn State, and it seems unlikely they would be jumped if they beat a top-10 Colorado team.

If UW loses to Colorado, the Huskies should be in ideal position to snag a bid to the Cotton Bowl, which this season pits an at-large team against the highest-ranked conference champion from a Group of Five league. That will almost certainly be Western Michigan, which carries a 12-0 record into Friday’s MAC championship game against 18.5-point underdog Ohio.

LAKE, SMITH RUMORS

According to a report by ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, two Washington Huskies assistant coaches might be considered for the vacant head coaching job at San Jose State.

The report names offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith and defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake – along with former UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox – as potential candidates to replace former San Jose State coach Ron Caragher, who was fired Sunday after compiling a 19-30 record in four seasons.

Asked Monday about the possibility of assistant coaches leaving for other schools, Petersen said this is “the worst part of the year for me.”

“But my job is to also help guys and their families achieve something they really want and what their goals are all about,” he said. “It’s also to, hopefully, like our players, make good decisions. I see so many coaches run off to other places — it’s not better in the long run. But when it is better, and that’s really their call, then it’s my job to help them do what they need to do.”

EXTRA POINT: Petersen said UW junior linebacker Keishawn Bierria sat out the second half of Friday’s Apple Cup victory due to a “minor injury,” and that “we think he’ll be ready to roll” for the Pac-12 title game.

Christian Caple: 253-597-8437, @ChristianCaple

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