Sarkisian Turns Things Around at Washington
While we're on hold with Ripley's Believe or Not, let's consider the Washington Huskies as one of those weight-loss before-and-after ads.
Before Steve Sarkisian: The Huskies go 0-12 in 2008, losing by an average of 25.3 points a game, staking their claim as the worst team from a BCS conference on the planet.
After: The Huskies are 2-1 in 2009, including - you might have heard - that little scrap with No. 3 Southern California they won with a last-second field goal.
"These press conferences," Sarkisian said, "keep getting better and better."
Should we already close nominations for college football coach of the year? Miracle worker of the year? Magician of the year?
Before: Washington gave up 59 touchdowns in 2008.
After: Washington allowed the Trojans one touchdown all day.
"Hopefully, it sends a message where we're headed and what we're trying to do," Sarkisian said.
Before: It took USC only 10:31 to pass 13 points last November on its way to a 56-0 mashing of the Huskies.
After: The final gun sounded Saturday in Seattle, and the Trojans still hadn't passed 13 points. But Washington had.
"We said early on it that it wasn't going to take us very long, and I firmly believe that," Sarkisian said. "I think maybe some people in the world, maybe outside our little domain, thought that was just press conference speak."
Before: Opponents were rarely stopped, needing only 37 punts all 2008 season.
After: USC went 0-for-10 in third-down conversions.
Sarkisian is a former BYU quarterback who once played in Canada and worked at USC for Carroll.
The quarterback, Jake Locker, has been wooed by the Los Angeles Angels to play centerfield.
The rest of the Huskies - only five seniors started Saturday - have become quick believers, able to challenge LSU in the opener, roll over Idaho, stun USC. Ten months ago they were losing to California 48-7 to finish 0-12.
"I am not really sure how I am supposed to feel," center Ben Ossai said.
Have a whiff of something already this season?
It's been jarring enough to see the defending Heisman winner from Oklahoma with his arm in a sling.
Or Oklahoma State go from Sports Illustrated cover to losing at home to Houston in four days.
Or Florida State struggle to score 19 at home against Jacksonville State, then blow away BYU away with 54 in Provo.
Powers from Ohio State to Oklahoma to USC already have a loss. Florida hardly looked unbeatable against Tennessee, intending to crush the Vols and silence Lane Kiffin, and doing neither.
Meanwhile, Mississippi is one of four SEC teams ranked in the top seven, Michigan is revived, Miami is climbing back up the rankings and Washington is in the Associated Press top 25.
Not bad intrigue for just three weeks.
Stat of the week@
In Pete Carroll's last 89 games at USC going back to 2002, the Trojans are 30-2 against ranked teams but have lost five times to unranked opponents.
"A lot of F words that weren't Florida were being yelled at me." - Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin, on the rather testy welcome he received from Gator fans.
"A lot of times, you get fired for those things. But you are on the road, and in my life, nothing is ever given to you. You got to fight for it." - Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill, about the fake punt he called with his team facing a fourth-and-2 at its own 16 with less than four minutes left in the game, protecting a lead against Purdue. The gamble worked, and the Huskies beat the Boilermakers for their first win over a Big Ten team in 21 years.
Thumbs of the week@
Up to Monte Kiffin. Tennessee's defense coordinator studied every Florida play for two years on tape to cook up the defense that slowed down the Gators and made his son look good.
Up to the state of Florida. Miami crushed Georgia Tech, Florida stayed unbeaten and Florida State won its biggest game in ages at BYU. "It reminds you of the old days," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said.
Up to Kansas. The Jayhawks crushed Duke in their first ever meeting. If only it were this easy during the basketball season. Duke leads that series 6-2.
Up to North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson. It takes an archaeologist to find his last interception. He has now gone 329 passes without a pick.
Down to the Mountain West. BYU battered, Utah beaten. Suddenly, the BCS-busting plans are down to TCU.
Down to Penn State. The nonconference schedule - Akron, Syracuse, Temple, Eastern Illinois - is unworthy of a genuine national contender. The last time Temple beat the Nittany Lions, Joe Paterno was 15.
Down to Nebraska. For the Cornhuskers to truly be back, this will have to change: They've lost 21 of their last 22 games against teams in the top 20.
Contact Mike Lopresti at mlopresti(AT)gannett.com