It came a week later than expected, but Tuesday night when the College Football Playoff Selection Committee released their latest rankings, Washington had entered the top four. It's validation for what the Huskies have accomplished so far this season, but being ranked this early is one thing.
Staying there is something else entirely.
We won't have to wait long to see the Huskies tested, as they host a USC team that's played well over the last month.
Washington storyline: As mentioned above, Washington is now ranked in the top four, though it needed help to get there. The Huskies were ranked No. 5 in the CFP's original rankings, behind a Texas A&M team that had already suffered a loss.
This was an indication that, while the committee was impressed with what the Huskies had done, their resume still wasn't all that impressive. Wins over Oregon and Stanford would have been a lot more impressive had either of those teams been the teams we thought they'd be coming into the year, but that's just not the way it worked out.
Now, for the first time this year, Washington has a chance to pick up a win against a team the committee actually has ranked. It won't be the most impressive win in the country, but if Washington can pick it up, it will only improve their position in that hotel room where playoff bids are decided.
USC storyline: There was plenty of skepticism about USC's decision to stick with interim coach Clay Helton following last season, and at the beginning of the season, it seemed well-founded. The Trojans tripped out of the opening gate, losing three of their first four. If there was any consolation, it was that two of the losses came to Alabama and Utah, both of whom remain ranked by the committee.
Things have picked up since that slow start, as the Trojans have won five in a row, including a win over division-leading Colorado. It's that win that makes the Trojans dangerous going forward. They're still alive in the Pac-12 title race, and if they can pick up an upset win over the Huskies on Saturday, it will give this team plenty of momentum heading down the stretch.
Game pick: I don't know if USC will win this game outright, but I believe it can, and that makes me lean toward taking the Trojans and the points. Washington has been very good at home this season, winning by an average of 32.3 points per game in their three home contests against Power Five teams. Still, over the last month, a Washington run defense that had been stellar to start the season has begun to spring some leaks, and the Huskies also lost linebacker Joe Mathis for the rest of the season. He has been the most disruptive force on that Washington defense. USC's offense has been improving as the season continues, thanks to Sam Darnold at quarterback, and a rushing attack that's proven to be very effective. All these things lead me to believe the Trojans will give Washington a run for its money in Seattle. USC +7.5
|No. 20 USC at No. 4 Washington, 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox|
|Washington -7.5|| || || || || || || |