I’m not exactly giving up on this 2012 Husky football team, but I do more than have my doubts.
I never went into this year expecting the Huskies to win the Pac-12 and go to the Rose Bowl. Essentially treading water and going to one of the bowls we’ve been to the last two years – Alamo or Holiday – would have been just fine with me. But, even that is now looking more and more like a stretch and we’d be fortunate to just make one of the bottom bowls. Kraft Fight Hunger, or whatever the hell the dregs of the Pac-12 adequates are pegged to go to.
It would be nice to believe otherwise. It would be nice to have the kind of confidence in this team that fans of USC or Stanford or Orgeon get to enjoy. But, frankly, this just doesn’t look like a good team this year.
A lot of it has to do with injuries, I will readily admit that. I know the team and the coaches won’t use that as an excuse, but just wait until the end of the season when the Dawgs finish with more defeats than victories, you’ll hear a different tune. Yeah, of course, a guy goes down and the next in line has to step up. But, at some point, the guys you’re asking to step up just won’t be up to the task against teams who AREN’T starting third and fourth stringers. It’s not something I’m condemning the Huskies for; they just got bit this year. It happens. Injuries always happen and sometimes the injuries pile up more than others. It’s not fair, but that’s life.
Another thing I don’t think people are really talking about is: all the offensive talent we lost in the offseason. Chris Polk was the best running back in the conference. He’s now a third or fourth stringer for the Philadelphia Eagles. Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar were our two leading receivers; they’re both mucking about on the waiver wire or practice squads. Kearse especially was our main big-play threat. Aguilar was a seminal force on third down when we really needed to move the chains.
Who is here replacing these guys? Well, it was supposed to be Jesse Callier, but he was injured in Game 1 and is lost for the season. Now, it’s Bishop Sankey, who was a WSU recruit who renegged and opted to sign with UW. Is it a bad sign that we stole a guy from WSU rather than from Oregon or USC? I’ll say this: it’s not the BEST sign. Thus far, Sankey looks like a guy who belongs on Portland State, not a guy who belongs in the Pac-12. After him? A couple guys who have yet to play a down in college before this season? Yeah, this running game is screwed.
On the wide receiver side of things, we still have Kasen Williams and we still have Austin Seferian-Jenkins. ASJ is a big, bruising tight end with good hands. He’s definitely a quality threat in the passing game. Kasen Williams is athletic as all get-out. But, he doesn’t necessarily have the speed of Kearse and he doesn’t get open quite as well as Aguilar. He still might turn out to be a stud, but right now he is playing like a number 2 who is being shoe-horned into the role of a number 1. After that, it’s nothing but injured would-be stars and freshmen and Kevin Smith. In other words, no one has really stood out as a go-to guy, and that’s troublesome. Maybe they just need this year to establish themselves. Unfortunately, that’s likely to mean they won’t really break out until NEXT season.
And that’s my whole point in this thing. These Huskies are still REALLY young. And Keith Price can’t do it all by himself; he’s not Jake Locker for crying out loud. This defense is going to spend all season getting used to its new scheme and its new coaching staff, so it’s not going to become dominant overnight. Tack on injuries to players who – even without these medical red shirts – would have been major players on this team for the next 1-2 seasons, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a college football team sitting at home during bowl season.
The mark of an improving college football team isn’t just winning the games you’re “supposed to win”, but it’s winning a game here and there against teams that are clearly better than you. If the Huskies are able to shock everyone and come away with a win next Thursday against Stanford, I will eat my words and take all of this back. But, I just don’t think it’s possible. Not only that, but I don’t think winning in Oregon the following week is possible, I don’t think winning at home against USC the week after that is possible, and the way things are going, I don’t think winning at Arizona the week after THAT is possible. Hell, we might go the entire month of October without a victory if Oregon State can manage to do what they did against Wisconsin!
Coming off of two consecutive bowl games – and decent-to-good bowl games at that – 2012 has Let Down written all over it. Looking pisspoor against San Diego State and looking completely inept in LSU has me more than convinced. I mean, shit, even Idaho went down there and managed two 2nd quarter touchdowns! You’re telling me the Vandals can do that, but the Huskies are only lucky to score a field goal after a fumbled kickoff?
That’s a bad sign. But, fret not, because I think the talent is here for the 2013 Huskies to be something special. At least, something more special than we’ve seen lately.