PULLMAN, Wash. -- Washington didn't win a game in 2008. It lost six games in five of the past six seasons. But in Year 3 under Chris Petersen, it's going to the Pac-12 championship game with a chance to earn a berth in the College Football Playoff.
Which means it then would have a puncher's shot at the national title.
Washington rode a dominant first half to a 45-17 victory over Washington State in the 109th Apple Cup on Friday, earning the Huskies their first Pac-12 North Division title.
They will play either Colorado, if the Buffaloes beat Utah on Saturday, or USC, which handed the Huskies their only defeat, on Dec. 2 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
That could be a play-in game for Washington for the CFP. At 12-1 and sitting atop the Pac-12, the Huskies would make it hard for the selection committee to bypass them in favor of a two-loss team or a team that didn't win its conference title. Potentially beating a highly ranked Colorado/USC in the title game certainly should boost Washington's résumé.
The Huskies rolled to a 28-3 lead in the first quarter and a 35-10 advantage at the break behind three touchdown passes from quarterback Jake Browning and an opportunistic defense, not to mention a couple of well-executed trick plays. On the day, Browning completed 21 of 29 attempts for 292 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions.
It remains to be seen if it was enough to spark some Heisman Trophy support, which fell off dramatically after a poor showing by Browning against the Trojans.
The Cougars showed some fight in the third quarter, scoring a touchdown on their first possession and then driving to a first-and-goal from the Huskies' 4-yard line. But Gerard Wicks was stuffed on fourth-and-1 short of the goal line by Budda Baker and Elijah Qualls, and the Huskies stalled the Cougars' comeback. That comeback was completely extinguished when the Huskies went 98 yards for a touchdown to start the fourth.
Washington State quarterback Luke Falk completed 33 of 50 passes for 269 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions. The Cougars were plagued for a second consecutive week by dropped passes.
Before this season, Oregon or Stanford had won every North Division title since the conference expanded to 12 teams in 2011. But the Huskies and Cougars blew both of them out this fall, setting up the first Apple Cup between ranked teams since 2001.
Washington now has won four Apple Cups in a row and six of the past seven. Petersen is 3-0 against Washington State coach Mike Leach.