UW to test second-week gains theory against BYU
A truth of college football, readily agreed upon by seemingly every coach, is that a team makes its greatest improvement from game one to...
Seattle Times staff reporter
BYU @ UW, noon, FSN
Oregon State (0-1) @ Penn State (1-0): 12:30 p.m. @ Beaver Stadium, Ch. 4 | Penn State favored by 16 ½
West Virginia (1-0) @ East Carolina (1-0): 1:30 p.m. @ Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, ESPN | WVU by 7 ½
Miami (1-0) @ Florida (1-0): 5 p.m. @ Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, ESPN | Florida favored by 21 ½
A truth of college football, readily agreed upon by seemingly every coach, is that a team makes its greatest improvement from game one to game two.
The theory is that having finally played a game, a team has a better handle on its strengths and weaknesses and knows what to work on.
It's a cliché providing great comfort right now to the Washington Huskies, who are hoping that the expected improvement after the first game — a 44-10 loss at Oregon — will help the team rebound for Saturday's contest against No. 15 BYU. Several UW coaches have mentioned it this week.
Just one nagging thought — is it really true?
Does anything support the notion that a team makes its greatest improvement from game one to game two? And what about the fact that the opponent is also theoretically making a great improvement from week one to week two, assuming it has already played a game, as is the case this week with BYU, 41-17 winners over Northern Iowa last Saturday? Wouldn't that mean the two teams are back where they started?
So to test the theory a bit, we decided to look at the past 11 years of Huskies football, game one to game two (with a nod to the WSU Football Blog, which ran its own Cougars-related version this week):
Game one: Won at BYU, 42-20.
Game two: Beat San Diego State at home, 36-3.
Conclusion: Push, meaning inconclusive either way. The Huskies were rated No. 4 to open the season and lived up to it by routing the Cougars in Provo, gaining 577 yards. There was no way to look better the next week.
Game one: Won at Arizona State, 42-38.
Game two: Beat BYU at home, 20-10.
Conclusion: Push. The opener saw UW win in dramatic fashion on a last-minute pass from Brock Huard to Reggie Davis. After a bye week, UW beat the Cougars in a fairly sloppy game due largely to TDs on a kickoff return and fumble return. But offensive struggles foreshadowed the 6-6 season to come.
Game one: Lost at BYU, 35-28.
Game two: Lost to Air Force at home, 31-21.
Conclusion: Got worse. After a dramatic loss at BYU in the first game of the Rick Neuheisel era, UW came home to get beaten decisively by Air Force. The loss marked a turning point, however, as after that game, Neuheisel and staff decided to emphasize an option offense based around quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo, and the Huskies beat Colorado in the third game.
Game one: Beat Idaho at home, 44-20.
Game two: Beat Miami at home, 34-29.
Conclusion: Got better. After a seemingly sluggish opener over Idaho, the Huskies got their signature win over No. 4-ranked Miami, lending credence to the idea that the opener maybe hadn't been so much sluggish, but just trying not to do much with bigger games to come.
Game one: Beat Michigan at home, 23-18.
Game two: Beat Idaho at home, 53-3.
Conclusion: Push. After a miraculous fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Wolverines, the Huskies were due to play at Miami on Sept. 15. Instead, 9/11 postponed the game and UW ended up blasting an undermanned Idaho team a week later in a game that didn't reveal much.
Game one: Lost at Michigan, 31-29.
Game two: Beat San Jose State at home, 34-10.
Conclusion: Got worse. After a heartbreaking loss in the Big House on the infamous 12th-man penalty, UW came home and fell behind a bad Spartans team 10-0 at halftime before rallying to win.
Game one: Lost at Ohio State, 28-9.
Game two: Beat Indiana at home, 38-13.
Conclusion: Got better, if barely, with the change in opponents and venues having much to do with the change in results in the first two games. The Indiana game was tied 10-10 at the half.
Game one: Lost at home to Fresno State, 35-16.
Game two: Lost at home to UCLA, 37-31.
Conclusion: Got better. UW looked about as bad as possible in losing to the Bulldogs, playing three QBs along the way. Settling on Casey Paus and a passing attack after a bye week, UW almost beat UCLA, ultimately losing when Maurice Drew rushed for 322 yards.
Game one: Lost to Air Force at Qwest Field, 20-18.
Game two: Lost at home to California, 56-17.
Conclusion: Got worse. After a disappointing fourth-quarter fade in the first game of the Tyrone Willingham era, UW gave up the most points ever scored by an opponent the next week at Husky Stadium and the worst home loss since 1949.
Game one: Beat San Jose State at home, 35-29.
Game two: Lost at Oklahoma, 37-20.
Conclusion: Got better. Though again, a close call. After a fairly easy win over San Jose State that got close at the end, the Huskies played the Sooners tough for about 2 ½ quarters before fading. Another where the change in venue and opponents make this one hard to read.
Game one: Won at Syracuse, 42-12.
Game two: Beat Boise State at home, 24-10.
Conclusion: Push. Huskies looked dynamic in crushing what turned out to be a really bad Syracuse team. UW then came home to beat Boise State. But a scoreless second half foreshadowed second-half struggles to come.
So that's four we judged where the team got better, three worse, and four a push, or too hard to tell one way or the other.
Given the vagaries involved — changes of venue, opponent, and that the other team also may be improving — there's very little consensus that can be drawn one way or the other.
It doesn't necessarily put a lie to the theory that teams improve the most from game one to game two — it would make sense that they do — just that no one should count on that supposed improvement to count for much toward the final result.
Meaning, the Huskies are on their own on Saturday.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 10:18 PM
Washington State's Klay Thompson will play Thursday against Huskies
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