After the final whistle of the 2012 football season, when the grandstands stand empty, and the tailgate equipment has been relegated to the garage for another offseason, it will be time for fans of Washington football to reflect.
Doubtlessly the discussion will turn to the turning points of the season, the games upon which hinged the program's success, whether it was a year to feel proud of or just another autumn of "what ifs?" The wins over then top-ten Oregon State and Stanford will be obvious choices.
Perhaps the win over Cal; a crucial road win despite its macabre sloppiness. Maybe fans will realize that the Utah win was the team's best game of the season, and will claim that victory is what made 2012 a "good year."
Each of those games is an understandable choice for the season's most important game, and all of them would be wrong. For the regular season's two most important games have yet to be played, and the Huskies will get their first crack this Saturday at Colorado.
The reality is, there isn't a whole lot of drama as the Huskies finish off their schedule. Whether they win or lose won't have much tangible impact on their season. Either way, they'll go to a mid-tier bowl, and probably play a good but not very interesting opponent.
Where the games at Colorado and Washington State will matter, however, is in 2013, when the Huskies should be looking to make a run at a major bowl game.
This year the Huskies have improved, certainly if not steadily. Relying on a core of young players the Huskies have shown the ability to win on the road, the ability to beat good teams and, finally, shown they have the capability of putting together a complete game.
"Again, it's all focusing on ourselves," defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. "When we take care of the things that we can control, in terms of how we play how we execute, how we communicate-all those things-the good things can happen. And once you get a little bit of that and you have some good things happen, it builds confidence, it makes it fun ... those things all work together."
Assuming the Huskies win out, they'll have firmly entrenched themselves as the No. 2 team in the Pac-12 North, an impressive feat considering the competition.
"Guys are understanding the situations of the game -- and then ultimately executing in those situations and believing in themselves," head coach Steve Sarkisian said. "So a lot has been put into it, whether it's belief, execution, prepartion. But the end result is I think it is maturity, quite honestly."
These last two games give the Huskies a chance to build some momentum going into next season, a chance to maybe give a few of senior cornerback Desmond Trufant's snaps to a younger player.
They give the young offensive line, which had easily its best game of the season against Utah's stout defensive interior, a chance to gain some confidence. It's another opportunity for sophomore running back Bishop Sankey to run roughshod over a team. And it's an opportunity for the defense to impose their will on a team, while trying some things out in the process.
" ... we played a great deal of young football players early in the season," Sarkisian said. "... When you are counting on Kasen Williams and Austin (Seferian-Jenkins) as sophomores as leaders, when you are counting on a second-year quarterback to be your leader, some of the youth we have on defense, it took us some time to mature and understand what it took day in and day out and understand what real leadership is. And our guys have responded, really matured.
Whether the Huskies win seven, eight, or nine games in 2012 won't really change much in the grand design of the college football universe. An individual win or loss on the season will have little bearing on the future of the program.
However, the last two games of the season could set the Huskies up for some truly meaningful moments in 2013, and for that, the Colorado game is the most important game of the season. Until the Apple Cup.