Washington is giving Pac-12 football a beautiful swan song

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The finality of the Pac-12 is depressing. The Washington Huskies beat the Oregon Ducks, 34-31, on Friday night, and looked like a title contender doing it. Michael Penix had his full array of receivers, with Jalen McMillan returning to grab nine balls for 131 yards. Husky running back Dillon Johnson added 151 on the ground for two scores, and threw a touchdown as well.

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It was the kind of season for the conference, and for Washington, that would make for a great column. Something along the lines of, “OK, Washington, now don’t embarrass yourself.” This is the conference’s first College Football Playoff berth since UW got there in 2017, but really the league’s best shot at a natty since Marcus Mariota vs. Cam Newton in 2010.

It’s also the Pac-12’s last shot. Let’s see if the Conference of Champions can go out on top, and further shame the greedy universities for destroying a part of college athletics. The defining trait of Kalen DeBoer’s team on Friday was balance.

Solid running and passing game, and the defense held the Ducks in check for much of the first half. They got a stop when it mattered most in the fourth quarter that allowed Johnson and Penix to go on a 12-play, 82-yard touchdown drive that took six minutes off the clock. The score put Washington ahead by 10 with less than three minutes remaining.

It only took Bo Nix two plays to respond yet Oregon couldn’t get the onside kick, or a stop, for a last gasp. The result guarantees Washington a spot in the CFP, and makes the one-loss squads a little sweatier.

Dan Lanning didn’t even totally blow it for Oregon. Anyone who thought the Ducks were the better team coming into the matchup doesn’t have an argument. Washington played the best the conference has to offer, and won both times.

It takes a tough team to get through a Power Five schedule without faltering. Washington is full of six-year players, and the poise that only comes with experience has been on display all season. This was UW’s seventh win in one-score games, and whoever draws Penix in the CFB is getting the best, most experienced signal caller remaining.

I haven’t mentioned Rome Odunze, who is every bit as good as Marvin Harrison Jr. The Huskies are stacked, and they better know what’s at stake. They’re the last hope of a dying conference. Next season, the great homogenization begins, but the Pac-12 has its champion — one who’s leaving for the Big Ten.

Regardless, the Huskies are still in the Pac-12, so please, Washington, don’t embarrass yourself. 

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