Ty Willingham did this to himself. Gladly signed off on it without -- let's be clear -- any sort of high-caliber coercion aimed at his temple.
The same goes for his boss at Washington, AD Todd Turner. There is no known use of hallucinogens in his past, so we can rule out bad acid too.
|Sorry, Coach Willingham, you can't recruit Shaun Alexander for additional help. (AP)|
Shortened that's Tough S-H-I- ... Woops. I may have to re-think that abbreviation, but at Washington it fits.
I ran the 2007 schedules of all 119 I-A teams through my turbo-powered desk calculator (see "Notes on the formula" below) and was able to give definition to something so heinous that you feel sorry for the fine men of U-Dub this season.
Even before the schedule became an issue, 2007 was more about survival at Washington. Willingham is 7-16 in his two seasons. Redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Locker is being broken in. He'll try to counter a defense that was 95th nationally last season.
The last Washington bowl game was two coaches and 4½ years ago.
Consider the potential suffering for Husky Nation that lies ahead. Combined winning percentage of opponents: .633. Six of the nine Pac-10 conference foes made bowl games last season. There are nine bowl teams total on the schedule. Six of those won at least 10 games in 2006. Two top 10s from last season -- Boise State and Ohio State -- come to Seattle in consecutive September weekends.
"I'm a genius," Turner said with mock hubris.
And it could have been worse. At one time Washington was playing Oklahoma, Ohio State and USC this season in consecutive games. Even Turner realized that's not a schedule, that's the Bowl Championship Series.
|3t. Mississippi State|
|10t. South Florida|
|117t. Miami (Ohio)|
|117t. Central Michigan|
|114. Arkansas State|
|113. Florida Int'l|
|112. Florida Atlantic|
|110t. Eastern Michigan|
"We can't do that," Turner said to himself upon taking the job. "The first thing I did was call Joe Castiglione (Oklahoma's AD) and say, 'Can we defer that game? We need a non-return game.' "
So Turner pushed Oklahoma to 2008 and wisely replaced it with the team that beat the Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl, Boise State.
"I didn't know they'd have a 13-game winning streak," Turner said.
That's the thing about scheduling. Future schedules seem to be firmed up about three decades in advance. Yesterday's date with a midget wrestler can become a steel cage death match with Andre the Giant.
So here comes the folding chair across the shoulder blades. Never mind that Ty and Todd are basically swinging it:
• Why not fly 3,000 miles and open the season at what could be suddenly dangerous Syracuse? What ESPN wants, ESPN gets in this pre-arranged made-for-TV meeting.
• Why not open the home season against the nation's hottest team? The idea of Boise being more big time than Washington was once laughable. Don't worry about the choke factor when WAC meets Pac-10. Boise already has had its close up in the Fiesta. Since Jan. 1, the story of the 2006 Broncos has been turned into a documentary and at least a couple of books. No truth to the rumor that Chris Petersen is demanding a Husky Stadium suite for his entourage.
• Why not welcome in the man who fired you? That's the uncomfortable situation Turner will face when he shakes hands with (or a fist at) Ohio State president Gordon Gee in Week 3.
The only reason Turner is at Washington is because Gee, then at Vanderbilt, did away with the athletic department in 2003. No athletic department. No need for an athletic director. Thanks, Todd. See you down the road.
"I'll have one of his bow-tie cookies," Turner said remembering Gee's favorite home-baked treats on game days.
Any temptation to crumble one of the cookies into Gee's mug?
"Heck no, are you kidding me?" Turner said. "He's an interesting guy."
Let's see how interesting Gee is in the fourth quarter of a double-digit Washington loss.
One upshot of playing up: Washington should be featured prominently in the Heisman race -- mostly, its defense on highlight reels trying to stop top contenders Ian Johnson (Boise), John David Booty (USC), DeSean Jackson (Cal) and Colt Brennan (Hawaii).
Turner had to know that only toddlers in traffic are more vulnerable than his program right now. No need to rehash Rick Neuheisel's ultimate hit and run. But just when Willingham was dragging the Huskies out of the mud (with a promising 5-7 in '06), coach and AD tried to make it rain.
In terms of scheduling.
|2. Big East||23.63|
|4. Big Ten||43.04|
|5. Big 12||49.75|
|7. Mountain West||67.55|
|9. Conference USA||91.91|
|11. Sun Belt||107.50|
|*Average strength of schedule rankings|
The season could have ended (mercifully?) on Nov. 24 in the Apple Cup against Washington State. But Willingham agreed to tacking on a 13th game with a trip to Honolulu.
Amid the ocean breezes, Washington might be playing for its postseason life and -- who knows? -- Willingham's job. It's tough enough to get to 6-6 for bowl eligibility. If Washington makes it to that point by Dec. 1, Washington would have to win that 13th game to remain bowl eligible at 7-6.
Congratulations on this front, Todd: Playing this schedule means you have more stones than your average SEC AD, most of whom are busy cutting non-conference guarantee checks to the Nicholls States of the world.
It's the age-old balance between sexy schedule and sexy record. The Huskies have lost eight out of their last nine non-conference games to BCS-league schools. It's hard to have your (Ohio) State and beat it too.
"People in the Northwest like those schedules," Turner said. "All I had to do was look at the history whether it means playing Miami (2001), Oklahoma (2006, 2008) or Michigan (2001-2002). It's something that Washington has always done."
And will continue to do. Notre Dame, Nebraska and BYU have been added to future schedules.
Own it, Todd. You're No. 1, Tough SH--.
I've really got to re-think that abbreviation thing.
Notes on the formula
Each conference started with a base number. That number was reached by determining the overall 2006 winning percentage of each conference. In the Pac-10, for example, that number was .5511. To that number was added the conference's percentage of 2006 bowl teams multiplied by .75. Seventy-five percent of the Pac-10's six bowl teams (60 percent) is .45.
Added together the Pac-10's base number is 1.0011.
Teams were then given credit for playing 2006 bowl teams in the non-conference (.0178 per team) and for each game overall played against a 10-win team (.109).
The thinking being that even though it is a new year, playing bowl teams -- especially really good bowl teams -- will have some carryover. Ten wins is a good benchmark for achievement because only 26 of 119 I-A teams got to that mark in 2006. Roughly one in five (21.8 percent)
So adding Washington's base number (1.0011) to its non-conference bowl team number (3 x .0178=.0534), and then to its 10-win number (6 x .109=.654), you get 1.7085.
The SEC has the toughest schedule strength as a conference largely because nine of its 12 teams went to bowls last season. The league has nine of the top 16 teams in this season's rankings. All 12 teams are in the top 27. Defending champion Florida is 25th.
Preseason No. 1 USC is tied for the 37th-toughest schedule. Two years ago Texas won the national championship with a schedule that was tied for 36th. Of the toughest schedules in each the 11 I-A conferences, only two top 25 teams are represented. LSU is tops in the SEC. Nebraska is best in the Big 12.
The toughest schedules of teams in the top five talent-producing states: California (Stanford, UCLA), Texas (Texas), Florida (South Florida), Pennsylvania (Penn State), Ohio (Cincinnati).
|10||South Florida||Big East||9-4|
|18||Penn State||Big Ten||9-4|
|28||Michigan State||Big Ten||4-8|
|33||West Virginia||Big East||11-2|
|45||Kansas State||Big 12||7-6|
|45||Oklahoma State||Big 12||7-6|
|49||Colorado State||Mountain West||4-8|
|50||Iowa State||Big 12||4-8|
|50||Texas A&M||Big 12||9-4|
|50||Texas Tech||Big 12||8-5|
|57||Ohio State||Big Ten||12-1|
|63||Air Force||Mountain West||4-8|
|67||New Mexico State||WAC||4-8|
|69||North Carolina State||ACC||3-9|
|78||San Jose State||WAC||9-4|
|81||San Diego State||Mountain West||3-9|
|88||New Mexico||Mountain West||6-7|
|103||North Texas||Sun Belt||3-9|
|104||Middle Tennessee||Sun Belt||7-6|
|112||Florida Atlantic||Sun Belt||5-7|
|113||Florida International||Sun Belt||0-12|
|114||Arkansas State||Sun Belt||6-6|