Dec 19, 2023 - Sports

Huskies head to Sugar Bowl and a shot at national title

Football players in purple uniforms celebrate on the field after a win.

Huskies running back Dillon Johnson celebrates with teammates after winning the Pac-12 Championship Game. Photo: Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It's been more than 30 years since the University of Washington Huskies have snagged a national college football title. Now they have a shot at another — if they can first defeat Texas on New Year's Day.

Why it matters: While UW claims two past football championships, this year it could finally win a national title that isn't split awkwardly with one or more other teams.

What's happening: The No. 2 Huskies head to New Orleans Jan. 1 to play the third-ranked University of Texas Longhorns in the Sugar Bowl, a semifinal playoff.

  • Whoever wins will go on to play for the national championship on Jan. 8 against either Michigan or Alabama.

Details: This is UW coach Kalen DeBoer's chance to prove this year's undefeated Husky team is as good as the 1991 Huskies, which went 12–0 and claimed the national college football title that year under legendary head coach Don James.

  • A win this year could be even more momentous, because there would be no dispute about who emerges as the No. 1 team.

Flashback: For many years, including 1991, the national championship was determined through polls that didn't always agree — which means that to this day, both Washington and Miami claim that year's title.

  • The final Associated Press poll in 1991 put Miami at No. 1, while that year's USA Today/CNN Coaches Poll picked Washington.
  • A similar situation played out in 1960, with UW, Minnesota and Ole Miss all claiming that year's championship, per UW Athletics.

Of note: This is only the second time the Huskies have made the playoffs under the current College Football Playoff format, which debuted nine years ago and has the top teams compete in an elimination tournament.

  • During the Huskies' last playoff appearance in 2016, they lost 24–7 to Alabama in the semifinals.

The intrigue: At the upcoming Sugar Bowl, the Huskies will go against their former coach, Steve Sarkisian, who has led the Texas Longhorns for the past three seasons.

The bottom line: Seattle sports fans need this win after a disappointing Seahawks season, the Mariners' inability to sign baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani, and UW quarterback Michael Penix Jr. narrowly missing out on the Heisman Trophy.

  • We'll all be tuning in Jan. 1 (and, hopefully, also Jan. 8) to see just how far these 2023 Huskies can go.

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