Hats off --or on?-- as Huskies climb Pac-12

In the preseason, if you penciled in Washington at 6-4 heading into the season's final two weekends, you would have been branded an optimist. The Huskies faced a brutal schedule, perhaps the toughest in the nation, and it's become even tougher than it looked in August as the season played out.

Anyone project San Diego State as an 8-3 team? Or Oregon State as a top-10 team much of the season?

The Huskies posted wins over both those teams, and when you toss in a victory over Stanford, you have three wins over teams that are presently a combined 23-7.

The only true hiccup this season was at Arizona, a listless 52-17 defeat. But the Wildcats, also 6-4, are pretty darn good. They have wins against Oklahoma State and USC and nailbiting losses to Stanford and Oregon State.

While the Huskies haven't been strong on the road this year, they will be favorites in their final two regular-season games, at Colorado on Saturday and at Washington State in the Apple Cup on Nov. 23. That means they have a good shot at an eight-win regular season, with a chance at a ninth in a bowl game.

The last time the Huskies won eight games? That would be 2001. That means most of the current Huskies can't even remember the last time it happened.

And, yet, during a three-game midseason slide, some people were questioning the trajectory of the program under coach Steve Sarkisian.

People! Don't they just drive you crazy?

You get the feeling that a lot of those same people came around at some point last Saturday during the Huskies 16-play, 82-yard, fourth-quarter TD drive, which lasted 8:43 and put a dagger into Utah.

Sarkisian called the 34-15 victory the Huskies' most complete performance. The defense under new coordinator Justin Wilcox is astronomically better than a year ago, and QB Keith Price has started to look like his old self, completing 24 of 33 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He also rushed for a TD.

"I thought that was by far and away [Price's] best game of the year," Sarkisian said, then added. "I just think from a mental standpoint he is healthy. He's back to Keith Price as I know him, which is fun to be around... He is exuding a tremendous amount of confidence and leadership, and in the end I think our team feeds off of him."

Of course, there are other schools of thought, ones that hear about playing well in all three phases and yawn. These people prefer the "Hat Over Visor Theory."

Sarkisian is a visor guy, like Steve Spurrier. But it seems the Huskies are now 4-0 when he wears a hat. This has become a fairly big deal in Seattle. Really.

"I haven't spent that much time delegating over what to wear in the game," Sarkisian said. "But now, it's pretty clear to me the hat, it's just unbelievable the success we have with me in the hat. So we'll continue with the hat."

Sark is laughing at the question, but here's a guess that he will be wearing a hat until the magic -- and it is clearly hat magic -- goes away.

And, with a 9-4 finish with a bowl victory as a potential outcome, which could earn the Huskies a top-15 2013 preseason ranking as they move back into a fancy new Husky Stadium, hat magic is just fine.