It was fitting that a blitz sealed Auburn’s 21-16 win over Washington.
After Washington quarterback Jake Browning took a sack on third down late in the fourth quarter, No. 9 Washington faced a fourth-and-16 with 1:36 left in the game. Trailing by five, the Huskies had to get a touchdown to win. The decision to go for it was a no-brainer.
Knowing Washington had to go deep, No. 6 Auburn brought the blitz. It worked. Browning went down surrounded by a horde of Auburn defenders and ditched the ball at the last second to avoid the sack. Sack or not, the goal was accomplished. Auburn got the ball back and won the game.
The defensive strategy to win the game was fitting. This wasn’t the prettiest of football matchups. In a world where games are a race to 50 more often than not, this had a feeling that the first team to get to 20 would win. And sure enough, that’s what happened. A run by JaTarvious Whitlow with 6:15 left in the game broke the 20-point barrier for the Tigers. And was enough for the win.
Offensive inefficiency inside opposing territory had a lot to do with that. Each team’s offense had no problems getting across the 50. But that midfield mark made things tough. Just ask the Huskies. They were at the Auburn 43 on that fourth-and-16.
Neither team averaged more than 3.3 yards per carry. Both teams missed at least one field goal. They combined for 22 penalties. And scored just three total touchdowns. Yeah, it wasn’t glamorous. At all. But sometimes that’s OK.
Let’s talk about the playoff … yes, already
Washington is in a tough spot now. The Huskies were the team with the most to lose in Week 1. It’s tough to go undefeated through the nine games that comprise the Pac-12 conference slate. Washington is in the same division as Stanford and Oregon, and it has to go to Utah. No two-loss team has ever made the College Football Playoff.
The division strength and two-loss caveats also applied to Auburn. The SEC West is one of the two toughest divisions in football. But it’s easy to see Auburn challenging for the playoff with a loss to Washington and someone else if it won the SEC title and beat Alabama and/or Georgia. It’s fair to think the first two-loss playoff team will come from the SEC West or Big Ten East and not the Pac-12.
Washington isn’t completely out of it, of course. Look at Ohio State’s rebound after losing to Virginia Tech in 2014. The Buckeyes lost to the Hokies in Week 2 but still made the playoff. But Ohio State went undefeated to do that. Can Washington pull that off? The odds are stacked against the Huskies.
If Washington lost a ton of leeway with this game, Auburn gained it. The Tigers now have a signature non-conference win to point to at the end of the season. If it splits games with Georgia and Alabama — assuming both teams are who we think they are and Washington is still very good — the Tigers could have the best résumé of anyone with one or two losses at the end of the season.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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