National title? Coach backs off

  • JOHN SLEEPER / Herald Writer
  • Monday, November 13, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By JOHN SLEEPER

Herald Writer

SEATTLE – University of Washington football coach Rick Neuheisel admitted he opened his mouth and inserted his size nines when he talked Sunday about the Huskies having a shot at the national title.

Washington (9-1, 6-1 Pacific-10 Conference) is ranked sixth in the Associated Press poll and fifth in the all-important Bowl Championship Series standings. Yet, after nearly a season of the standard “one-game-at-a-time” drivel and the unpredictable Apple Cup game with Washington State mere days away, Neuhesiel slipped and talked about the national title being “not out of reach.”

He backed off Monday.

“I shouldn’t have said a thing,” he said. “I’m going to tell the players that I should be fined.”

Neuheisel may have been guilty of looking ahead excessively, but the idea isn’t ridiculous, especially if the Huskies get past Washington State (4-6, 2-5). All the teams ahead of Washington – top-ranked Oklahoma, No. 2 Miami, No. 3 Florida State and No. 4 Florida – all have difficult games on the horizon.

Oklahoma, ranked No. 1, has to win the Big-12 championship game, likely a rematch against Kansas State. Florida State plays host to Florida Saturday. If the Gators win, a victory in the SEC title game likely lands them in the BCS title game at the Orange Bowl.

Miami has two road games left, against Syracuse and Boston College.

Still, the scenarios that put the Huskies in the Rose Bowl (if they beat WSU and Oregon State beats Oregon) or the Fiesta Bowl (should UW and Oregon win) seem most probable.

Of course, should WSU prevail over the Huskies, hardly a reach considering the history, Washington probably would go to the Holiday Bowl.

“We have a tendency in college football, and sometimes I fall prey to it, too, to start predicting,” Neuheisel said. “This season, of any season, should teach us that predicting is a foolish thing to do.”

  • Husky honored: Washington freshman tailback Rich Alexis was named the Pacific-10 Conference offensive player of the week for his 21-carry, 127-yard performance in the Huskies’ 35-28 victory against UCLA Saturday.

    Also honored were Stanford linebacker Coy Wire and Oregon State kicker Ryan Cesca.

  • Great cause: A money-raising effort at the UCLA game for the Curtis Williams Fund raised $50,000. The money is for UW strong safety Curtis Williams, who sustained a spinal-cord injury against Stanford 17 days ago. The money will be applied to expenses above and beyond those that insurance won’t cover.

    Williams is at Stanford Medical Center, and will be for some time.

    “It speaks in a very loud way what kind of commitment this particular fan-base community has toward the University of Washington and particularly to a young man who is having a very difficult time,” Neuheisel said.

    A group of coaches and others will visit Williams Thursday after practice, Neuheisel said.

  • Subtle message: Asked whether he could give a weather forecast for Pullman on Saturday, Washington State coach Mike Price had one word.

    “B-u-r-r-r-r-r-r,” he said.

  • Tickets available: About 500 Apple Cup tickets are available through the Husky Ticket office at 206-543-2210. Cost is $40 each.

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