Best case-worst case: Washington

August, 14, 2008
8/14/08
6:21
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

This is the seventh in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-10 teams, starting from the top of our preseason power rankings and working down.

Up next: Washington

Best case: When Tyrone Willingham announced the return of linebacker E.J. Savannah, it provided a jolt of momentum. But that jolt wasn't as big as when Savannah lights up Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount on the first possession of the season-opener -- dropping the 235 pounder for a 3-yard loss on a third-and-1 play.

Immediately the two teams start jostling each other and the brave Huskies fans in attendance at Autzen Stadium feel a faint hint of déjà vu.

On the Huskies first play from scrimmage, Jake Locker rolls out of the pocket and launches a rainbow that flies 60 yards down field. True freshman Chris Polk, with a step on Walter Thurmond III, high steps into the end zone.

After four lead changes, the Ducks, down 30-28 drive to the Huskies 25. After a QB sneak and a spike, four seconds remain and Matt Evensen comes out for the game-winning field goal.

Blocked, by freshman Kavario Middleton.

The Huskies come home to a raucous Husky Stadium and crush No. 15 BYU 35-10.

Washington, back in the nation's top-25 for the first time under Willingham, jump all over the Sooners with two quick Jake Locker scores -- one passing, one running -- but Oklahoma ties the game at the break at 14-14.

The game most thought would become a blowout becomes, instead, a barnburner, with both QBs playing spectacularly. A Sam Bradford TD pass puts Oklahoma up 35-31 with just over a minute left and the Huskies out of timeouts.

Taking over at its 20, Locker scrambles for 17 yards. Connects with Polk for 12 yards. Then he finds Anthony Boyles for 28 to the Sooners 33.

But Boyles can't get out of bounds.

Locker and company get one more snap. Locker heaves the ball into the end zone...

And it tumbles to the ground, just out of Polk's reach.

Yet, as both teams linger on the field, the Huskies fans give them a standing ovation.

The Huskies come out flat against Stanford and barely survive in a 27-20 victory. A flat start the next week at Arizona, however, earns them an upset defeat and a tumble from the national polls. They also start flat against Oregon State but manage to win 38-35 in overtime.

No worries about a flat start with Notre Dame coming to town. The hyped showdown between Willingham and his former school and former genius coach Charlie Weis isn't much of a game, as the Huskies sack Jimmy Clausen five times in a 31-17 win.

The visit to USC doesn't go as well -- a 41-13 defeat -- though Locker's 103 yards rushing makes him the first person to eclipse 100 yards against the Trojans defense.

It's not much better the next weekend, when Rudy Carpenter passes for 325 yards against the Huskies in a 32-21 win.

Then former coach Rick Neuheisel and his beleaguered UCLA Bruins come to town. While the anticipated return of the Huskies former coach draws interest, the Bruins injury woes make the game a laugher -- a 33-3 UW win.

Fans are so happy at the Huskies becoming bowl-eligible, they forget to throw things at Neuheisel as he exits the field.

The Huskies roll 28-20 in the Apple Cup and then head to California with an outside shot of playing in the Sun Bowl.

But the Bears, recalling the beat down they suffered a year before in Seattle, return the favor in a 35-24 win.

Still, when the Huskies win the Emerald Bowl 35-20 and finish 8-5 the widespread feeling is the program's long-awaited return to glory is at hand.

Tyrone Willingham is given a contract extension.

Worst case: Washington starts strong at Oregon, taking a 10-7 lead in the second quarter. But when Jake Locker tries to twist for an extra yard on a third-and-4 run, he hurts his knee. The offense falls silent, and the Ducks roll after halftime, 44-20.

The next day, it's revealed that Locker is out for the rest of the season.

BYU and Oklahoma both deliver poundings at Husky Stadium, and the heat turns up to scorching on Willingham's already hot seat. Media speculation runs rampant that his days are numbered.

After a 27-21 home loss to Stanford, school president Mark Emmert fires Willingham and installs offensive coordinator Tim Lappano as the interim head coach.

Lappano inherits an impossible job. The Huskies start 0-6 and talk of a winless season starts. But, with Locker's replacement, Ronnie Fouch, starting to figure things out, the Huskies upset Notre Dame at home.

Still, injuries pile up for an already inexperienced team. USC and Arizona State clear their benches in the fourth quarter of blow-out wins.

The situation is a complete disaster when UCLA and Rick Neuheisel come to town. Many Huskies fans choose to continue to blame Neuheisel for the program's woes, so it hurts just that much worse when the Bruins come back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Huskies in overtime.

The Apple Cup offers another whammy. While the Huskies are sliding and in turmoil, Paul Wulff appears to hit all the right notes with the Cougars, who nip the Huskies 30-28 on a frigid night in Pullman.

Cal then blows out the Huskies, and the season is, mercifully at its end.

The program finds itself looking for its fifth coach since 1998.

And Emmert then hires John Mackovic.

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