A special edition of The Fabulous Peltoncast takes on Friday’s breaking news that Chris Petersen is the next head coach of the University of Washington football team. Kevin and Tristan look at Petersen’s career at Boise State, what’s next for the Huskies and the importance of having your own pyramid of success. They also touch on the Mariners signing of Robinson Cano and whether it might mean a Jay-Z concert at Safeco Field next summer.
This week’s episode of The Fabulous Peltoncast takes stock of a busy week in Seattle sports, including the latest on UW’s search for a replacement for Steve Sarkisian and the Seahawks blowing out the Saints before turning their attention to San Francisco.
Intro – Rumors that the Mariners may be after Robinson Cano and Matt Kemp; does it matter?
5:30 – Husky coaching search – who’s next after Jim Mora turned down the job? Who should we want? And how likely are they?
25:00 – Breaking down the Seahawks dominating the Saints on Monday Night Football and previewing Sunday’s game against San Francisco
44:00 – Tailgating, with a review of the variety of beers at our Apple Cup tailgate
This Week’s Links
An emergency edition of The Fabulous Peltoncast with special guest Chris Smith reacts to the news that Husky football coach Steve Sarkisian is headed to USC. Do we blame Sark? How much of a loss is this for Washington? And is Jim L. Mora the ideal replacement?
I went for a jog this morning and Steve Sarkisian was the head football coach at the University of Washington. By the time I came back, he had left for USC. And it wasn’t even a long run!
I’m still trying to process exactly what this all means, and I’m not sure I’ve even developed an opinion yet. But I do know that you’re going to hear a lot about Sarkisian’s tenure on Montlake over the next 48 hours, and not all of it is going to be accurate — in either direction. So let’s try to use the numbers to debunk some myths about the surprisingly brief Sarkisian era.
- Sark the Savior took an 0-12 team to a bowl game within two years
This is literally true, of course. Sarkisian inherited a team that had been winless the season before. That’s not an accurate depiction of the state of the program, however. The Huskies had gone 5-7 and 4-9 the previous two seasons against brutal schedules. The 2006 team was likely headed for a bowl game had starting quarterback Isaiah Stanback not suffered a season-ending injury in the season’s eighth game, and the 2007 team lost a series of close games (five of their nine losses came by a touchdown or less).
2008 was an outlier. Washington lost its first three games against ranked opponents (including a loss to BYU when an excessive celebration penalty on Jake Locker moved back the extra point that would have tied the game and forced overtime, which was subsequently blocked) before Locker was lost for the season and the team quit on Tyrone Willingham.
Just two of Sarkisian’s first four teams rated better by Sports-Reference.com’s Simple Rating System than Willingham’s 2007 team, and all were in the same range. The difference wasn’t Sarkisian magic, but instead better luck and easier non-conference schedules that better reflected where the Huskies were as a program. Graphing Washington season by season in the 2000s reflects surprisingly little difference between the high points of the Willingham era and the Sarkisian period:
- “Seven-win Sark” had leveled off
Unfortunately for the Fire Sark lobby — you know who you are — going beyond wins and losses forces us to acknowledge that this year’s Huskies had turned a corner long before they actually won their eighth game. In fact, SRS rates this as the best Washington team since the 2000-01 Rose Bowl champs. So too do Jeff Sagarin’s ratings (which put the Huskies 10th in the nation) and pretty much anything that includes margin of victory.
Sarkisian timed his best UW team poorly, at a time when the Pac-12 was loaded. Three of the four Husky losses were to teams generally ranked in the top 10 by advanced stats, and UCLA is not far outside it. Losing badly at Arizona State looks a lot different in the context of the Sun Devils’ subsequent run to hosting the Pac-12 championship; the “computers” now put Arizona State as high as second in the nation. Had the schedule been slightly different — say, playing Utah instead of ASU and hosting the Bruins — this could easily have been a 10-2 team that was driving for a tying score at Stanford in the final minute, in which case there would be a lot fewer jokes at the expense of Sarkisian and USC.
- The up-tempo offense is window dressing
The convenient explanation for Washington’s breakthrough season is the faster-paced offense Sarkisian adopted this season, mimicking conference rivals like Oregon and Arizona State. But look again at the graph: the Huskies’ offensive rating is actually slightly worse than 2011 (Keith Price‘s first full season as a starter) and no better than 2007 (Locker’s freshman year). The system undoubtedly helped Price avoid the same beating he took last season, which left him banged-up and doubting his decision-making process, but a more experienced offensive line was also a major factor and this was a return to what Price did two years ago.
The difference for Washington was finally pairing a quality defense with the kind of offense UW boasted multiple times over the past five years. In fact, this year’s defense rates better by SRS than the 2000 defense, the culmination of two years of improvement under new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. That’s why today’s really painful news might be the possibility of Wilcox joining Sarkisian at USC.
A special edition of The Fabulous Peltoncast focuses its full attention on the Seahawks’ Monday Night Football showdown against the New Orleans Saints that could decide the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The brothers look at key matchups and assess the Seahawks’ chances of victory at Century Link Field.
Featuring special guest cousin Michael, this week’s episode of The Fabulous Peltoncast celebrates Thanksgiving by counting down our five favorite Thanksgiving food items and previews Friday’s Apple Cup with perspectives from both sides of the rivalry.
Intro – Welcoming Michael to the podcast and touting the up-and-coming holiday Thanksgiving Eve
3:00 – Husky basketball 2K Sports Classic recap; can the season be saved?
9:00 – The streaking Blazers and their scuffle with the Warriors. Season win projections?
19:00 – Seahawks suspensions of cornerbacks Brandon BrownerWalter Thurmond III; which hurts worst?
29:00 – Apple Cup! Keys to the game, Keith Price vs. Cyler Miles, chances of winning
43:00 – Thanksgiving! Best Thanksgiving foods, beer pairings, Thanksgiving football memories
59:30 – Fantasy, including Tristan‘s suggestion for a rules change in our league
This Week’s Links
Thanksgiving Food Rankings
3. Sweet Potatoes
4. Mashed Potatoes
5. Pumpkin Pie
2. Mashed Potatoes
5. Pumpkin Pie
4. Pumpkin Pie
5. “Flaky” Dinner Rolls
Befitting its location mere blocks from Broadway, Madison Squre Garden is designed like a stage, with the darkness of the crowd sharply contrasted against the well-lit court. The bright spotlight can provide an opportunity for players and teams to step up and shine, but the harsh glare also makes it impossible to hide flaws. Such was the case for the Washington Huskies during their two-game visit to the Garden last week. After getting blown out by Indiana in the opener, they couldn’t get enough stops to hang with a Boston College team picked 8th in the ACC.
The Huskies flew home Saturday ranked 142nd in the nation by KenPom.com, their lowest mark in the three-plus seasons the Pomeroy ratings have been tracked game-by-game and 11th in the Pac-12 conference right now. While Lorenzo Romar‘s teams have a history of overcoming slow starts, and the expected return of Desmond Simmons makes it nearly certain this year’s group will be better in a month or two, Washington has been so bad thus far that better still might mean finishing among the Pac-12 teams either rebuilding (USC, Utah) or historically near the bottom of the conference (Oregon State, Washington State).
Though I picked them eighth in the Pac-12, I had higher hopes for the Huskies. With some luck, I thought this could be an NCAA tournament team, a notion that now seems preposterous. Part of the issue, without question, is the injuries that have struck the UW frontline. The size and athleticism of Jernard Jarreau, out for the season after rupturing his ACL just minutes into the opener, was badly missed against Indiana’s talented frontcourt. And Simmons, out until December after arthroscopic knee surgery, would have been invaluable on the glass and given the Huskies a better matchup for today’s inside-out power forwards.
Even at full strength, however, it appears Washington would have been far from the tournament conversation. And with star guard C.J. Wilcox and post scorer Perris Blackwell graduating after this season, it’s getting more difficult to see a path back to contention in the Pac-12. The conference, so far down when the Huskies won it during the regular season two years ago, has gotten better while UW has stood still at best and regressed at worst.
The short-term concern is whether Washington can adapt to the new “freedom of movement” rules enforcement instituted by the NCAA this season. Romar has always favored an aggressive perimeter defense, and part of my optimism over the summer was rooted in the belief that the Huskies could get back to that style after their lack of depth on the perimeter forced them to play more conservatively the last two years.
UW has changed its style in response, and is putting opponents on the free throw line relatively less frequently than two seasons ago, let alone during the highpoints of the Romar era. But the ferocity with which the Huskies traditionally defended has been lost in the process. They’re forcing even fewer turnovers than last season, which had been their low-water mark under Romar, while allowing perimeter players to blow by them off the dribble. That’s putting foul-prone Shawn Kemp Jr. on the bench early and forcing Washington to play smallball to try to survive, which has gotten them destroyed on the glass and in the paint.
The more pressing question for me is whether Romar has lost his way in terms of recruiting. The Huskies built their success over the last decade on a simple formula: keep talented local players at home and surround them with underrated, hard-working recruits who will develop on Montlake. Despite a strong 2013 recruiting class headlined by top point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, neither pillar seems to be working right now.
In the past, homegrown talent like Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy and Isaiah Thomas provided UW’s foundation. To the extent the Seattle area has produced those kinds of players over the last few years, aside from Tony Wroten they’ve ended up elsewhere. Little-used backup guard Hikeem Stewart is the only Husky on scholarship from the Puget Sound area, and while Timberline’s Donaven Dorsey will join him next season, he belongs more in the category of overachiever than NBA-bound star.
The dropoff in the latter category is more troubling. Wilcox, a three-star recruit who initially redshirted before developing into an NBA prospect, is precisely the kind of player Washington once routinely found. Romar has relied on players like Justin Holiday and Bobby Jones who kept improving throughout their four years on campus.
The aggressive Andrew Andrews and scrappy Mike Anderson may prove they belong in that category, and Jarreau could have joined them had he stayed healthy, but too many of their peers lack the fiery attitude that distinguished Holiday and Jones. The issues with transition defense and slow starts that have plagued the Huskies the last couple of seasons were never problematic before, and the attacking style that made UW so fun to play has gone missing and taken the intimidating atmosphere of a sold-out Hec Edmundson Pavilion with it. Within the last three years, the Huskies have lost more than twice as many home non-conference games (five) than they did in the previous eight combined (two).
Romar is not ignorant of these issues. He’s made wholesale changes to the coaching staff the last two summers to try to bring new spark to the program, but so far they have resulted in nothing but more of the same. Washington has gone off track, and I’m increasingly concerned they won’t be able to find their way back any time soon.