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Washington hot in blitzing Colorado, chill on playoff hopes

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Browning says Rose Bowl is worst-case scenario for Washington (0:58)

Jake Browning looks ahead to what's next for Washington after beating Colorado to win the Pac-12 title. (0:58)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- There was no grand display of bravado or oratorical brilliance from Washington coach Chris Petersen or any of his players after they trounced No. 8 Colorado 41-10 to capture the Pac-12 championship Friday. In an age of divisive and often hyperbolic political pronouncements, the Huskies and their coach were mild-mannered and almost wryly understated when asked to provide their campaign speech to the College Football Playoff selection committee.

"We think we've got a heck of a team," Petersen said. "We think we belong. We think [the committee] will do the right thing."

At some point, according to an official quote sheet, Petersen said about his team belonging in the playoff, "I think there's no doubt about that."

It feels as though the Huskies will provide a pretty darn strong case to the committee, which ranked them fourth and therefore on track for inclusion in the playoff this week.

  • The Huskies are the Pac-12 champions.

  • The Huskies are 12-1 and no team that could potentially displace them will offer fewer defeats.

  • The Huskies' lone defeat came to USC, which is likely to be ranked in the CFP top 10 on Sunday.

  • The Huskies added a blowout victory over the No. 8 team to a résumé that also includes wins over No. 18 and No. 20 as well as recently ranked Washington State.

  • The Huskies manhandled, for four quarters on a neutral field, a team that led No. 5 Michigan into the third quarter at the Big House before starting quarterback Sefo Liufau was knocked out of the game.

  • The Huskies did not lose a game by 39 points or to a four-loss team, as two-loss, No. 7 Penn State did.

  • The Huskies' résumé is not highlighted by two close defeats, as two-loss, No. 6 Wisconsin's is.

Yet when asked to perhaps spew forth one of these bullet points, the Huskies mostly shrugged.

"We just play the game, honestly," running back Myles Gaskin said. "That's up to a whole bunch of people I don't even know, and they're going to do all their voting and a whole bunch of stuff like that, but I don't really care personally. We're just going to play whoever we have next."

He did not start singing "Que será, será" but there was a palpable hope among reporters he would. Just to spice things up.

What is spicy: Washington is back. It won its first conference title since 2000, but generations who preceded our present millennials can recall the Huskies as a Northwest power. This is a program that feels firmly set to compete on a national level under Petersen, much more so than a flash in the pan.

Washington whipped the Buffaloes with its most celebrated player, quarterback Jake Browning, having an off night, one that won't boost his case to be invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Browning completed just 9 of 24 passes for 118 yards. He did throw his 41st and 42nd touchdowns of the season, though one of them was an ill-advised, desperation hurl that was comedic in its genesis before John Ross transformed it into a 19-yard touchdown.

"Our pass game was awkward, for the lack of a better word," Petersen said.

Instead of the big downfield plays observers have become accustomed to seeing from Washington, the Huskies relied on a dominant defense and a physical running game. They rushed for 265 yards -- nearly twice what the Buffaloes have been yielding this season -- and held Colorado to just 163 total yards on 54 plays.

"They basically ran it down our throats," Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said.

Gaskin led the Huskies with 159 yards on 29 carries, and Lavon Coleman had 107 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown.

Colorado's situation wasn't helped by Liufau hurting his ankle in the first half, missing the second quarter and then throwing three interceptions after returning. Two of those picks were snagged by freshman and game MVP Taylor Rapp, who returned one for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead in the third.

"I really, really messed up to say the least," Liufau said, adding later, "I'm really frustrated with myself and how I played for these guys tonight."

Washington went 7-6 in 2015, often finding creative ways to lose winnable games. But those frustrations and struggles served as a Point A for the Huskies' return to glory this fall. They bottled up the emotions and lessons of those failures and reprocessed them into a poised, mature focus.

"They've just been on a mission ever since," Petersen said.

That mission might next include a date with No. 1 Alabama in the College Football Playoff. Few will give Washington a chance.

You know: Just as no one gave Petersen's Boise State team a chance in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma.