By Ralph D. Russo
The Associated Press
This will provide little relief to coach Steve Sarkisian and Washington, which lost a heartbreaker to Stanford on Saturday night, but no team left a better impression this weekend than the Huskies.
Washington lost 31-28 on the road and dropped only one spot to No. 16 in The Associated Press college football poll Sunday.
The Huskies outgained the Cardinal offensively by 205 yards, and looked every bit the equal of the No. 5 team in the country. A video review of a fourth-down pass by Washington, reversed to incomplete after being ruled a catch, essentially ended the Huskies’ upset bid. It was a close call.
That result, along with Ohio State’s come-from-behind 40-30 victory at Northwestern, helped the top five teams in the Top 25 hold their places for a fourth straight week.
Alabama is No. 1, followed by Oregon, Clemson, Ohio State and Stanford. The Tide received 55 first-place votes and Oregon got the rest.
What Washington got was to show anybody who decided to stay up late that this is not a team destined for a fourth straight 7-6 season under Sarkisian.
The rebuilding, and there was plenty to do when Sarkisian took over in 2009, finally has produced a team that looks capable of being a legitimate threat to Stanford and Oregon in the Pac-12 North.
Of course, Washington (4-1, 1-1) beat Stanford last season in Seattle. Why is this different? Last year’s Huskies had already gotten crushed at LSU when they upset the Cardinal. In that game, the Huskies got manhandled up front by Stanford’s defensive line, quarterback Keith Price took a beating and played tentatively. Stanford, however, was just dysfunctional enough offensively to allow UW to sneak away with a 17-13 win. It felt more like Stanford lost than the Huskies had won.
The next week Washington was hammered 52-21 at Oregon.
The Ducks come to Seattle on Saturday for another huge game and another chance for UW to make a statement with a victory. Oregon will be greeted by a confident Price, playing behind a much improved line and with an array of talented playmakers at his disposal. Defensively, the Huskies are fast and sure-tacklers, masterfully coached by coordinator Justin Wilcox.
“I think the thing that we proved to ourselves is we can beat anybody in the country,” Sarkisian said Saturday night.
The Huskies haven’t reached eight wins in a season since 2001 and haven’t earned a BCS bid since 2000. It’s been more than 20 years since they were the perennial class of the conference, winning a share of the national title in 1991 under coach Don James.
No matter what happens against Oregon, there are plenty of reasons for Washington fans to be optimistic right now.
Gridlock:There have been few upsets to re-arrange the rankings so far this season.
Only three teams ranked in the 15 have lost unranked team, and one of them was Florida’s loss to Miami. Of the teams ranked in the preseason top 12, five have lost but all those losses came against teams that are currently ranked.
All of this has created poll gridlock. The last time the top five teams went four weeks with no changes was late in the 2004 season, when Southern California was No. 1, followed by Oklahoma, Auburn, California and Utah. There was one catch in ‘04. One of those weeks Auburn tied Oklahoma for second.
Moving in: Missouri (5-0), coming off a 51-28 victory against Vanderbilt, moved into the ranking for the first time since September 2011. The Tigers are 25th, heading into Saturday’s game at Georgia. Missouri will be the fourth ranked opponent Georgia has played in its first six games.
Also moving into the rankings this week were No. 23 Northern Illinois (5-0) and No. 24 Virginia Tech (5-1).
Moving out: Mississippi dropped out of the rankings after a second straight loss in the state of Alabama. The Rebels lost 30-22 to Auburn on Saturday after being shut out by Alabama the week before.
But with Missouri moving into the Top 25, the Southeastern Conference still has seven ranked teams, which matches a record for one league. The ACC and Big Ten have also done it, but no league has done it more than the SEC.
Also out of the rankings this week are Arizona State and Maryland. The Terps’ one-week stay ended with a 63-0 loss to No. 6 Florida State. That matched the most-lopsided loss ever by a ranked team.
FROM THE ARCHIVE: No. 15 Baylor moved up two spots after beating West Virginia 73-42. It’s the sixth time this season that a ranked team has scored 70 or more points. That matches the most (1944 and 1995) in a season.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP