The Broncos are ranked in the top 25 in both polls; the Huskies are not. That’s pretty much what you need to know about the game tonight.
Not a lot of people very high on the Washington Husky football team this year. I think too much is made of all the defensive studs who left after last year. Yeah, Shaq and Kikaha and Peters and Shelton were all great, but that defense as a whole last year was pretty underwhelming. If the 2015 Huskies are bad, it won’t necessarily be exclusively the fault of the defense.
As usual, it comes down to quarterback play. This year, we’ll be without Cyler Miles. Say what you will about him, but if he were healthy and in a football frame of mind, he’d be the clear best option. Now, does that mean he’d be any good? Or that he has very much upside? I don’t think so. If you feel like this Husky team is in more of a rebuilding mode for 2015 regardless of whether or not Miles was going to be here, then it’s probably for the best that he’s not. Let’s see who else we have on the roster; let’s see if – by season’s end – we haven’t found a star in our midst.
The 3-way battle – between Junior, Jeff Lindquist; Redshirt Freshman, K.J. Carta-Samuels; and True Freshman, Jake Browning – has all boiled down to tonight. The coaches haven’t named a starter, but it would appear Browning is going to get the first crack at it. I still don’t fully believe the team is going to stick to just one quarterback, as I think at least two will get regular play. Browning is probably the better passer and quarterback overall, but he’s straight out of high school. Ultimately, the move to burn his redshirt will probably be a huge mistake. I tend to agree with the concept that true freshmen should never play bigtime college football; ALL of them should be given a year to adapt to college life, and get bigger and stronger. The concern is really twofold though, when you’re talking about a highly touted talent like Browning. The most likely scenario is: he struggles, he loses his confidence, he gets injured, or some combination of the three. The flipside of that is: maybe he succeeds and ends up as this team’s starting quarterback for 3-4 years, but maybe he’s not quite as great as he could be, and when we get to the end of his college career – right as he’d be about to explode as one of the best players in the conference – he’s forced into turning pro before we get a chance at having him play his very best ball.
Obviously, that second scenario is a good problem to have, because it likely means we’ve had a successful 3-4 years. But, I think we can all agree – however this turns out – 5th Year Senior Jake Browning would be a much better player than 4th Year Senior Jake Browning.
If you want my prediction, I think Browning does start tonight, and I think he does struggle during his true freshman campaign. I also think he gets hit with the injury bug, because there’s no way I’m ever going to trust a Husky offensive line until they finally prove it to me. The O-Line has been an issue for at least a decade now, and while help should be on the horizon with some of the better recruits we’ve gotten under Coach Pete, I don’t anticipate the O-Line being much of a strength in 2015. Even if Browning doesn’t get injured, I still believe Lindquist will have his share of reps. Maybe he comes in for a drive or two per game. Maybe he has a sub package where we can utilize his running ability and/or cannon arm.
Either way, though, I don’t expect 2015 to be a banner year for the quarterback position. Which is why I tend to believe this Husky team is going to struggle. A lot.
At the moment, the Huskies have six ranked teams on their schedule – Boise St., USC, Oregon, Stanford, Arizona, and Arizona St. That doesn’t include a very tough Utah team, an improving California team, a road game against Oregon State, and an Apple Cup against what I feel will be an explosive Washington State team. As it stands right now, the Huskies are favored to win 4 games, and two of those games are against non-conference duds. Most of the betting public has the Huskies winning anywhere from 4-5 games; I think five wins might be pretty generous. I can envision a scenario where the Huskies get beat by the entire Pac-12 and finish last in the conference (unfortunately, no Colorado on the schedule this year).
Did I mention John Ross is out for the year, and we haven’t even played a game?
I don’t see much of any hope for this team making a bowl game, but if they do, it starts tonight. The Huskies will have to run the table in the non-conference schedule, and follow that up with a home win against the Bears. That puts us at 4-0, which is where we’ll need to be, because I guarantee we’re going to lose at least the next three games (@ USC, home vs. Oregon, @ Stanford). We follow that stretch with two home games against Arizona and Utah; we have to win 1 of those 2. That should give us 2 quality wins, which sets us up for getting pounded down at Arizona State, followed by winning the last two, at Oregon State and vs. Washington State. That gets us to 7 wins, and 7 wins probably gets us a bowl. If these Huskies are like the Husky teams of the last five years, that’s exactly what they’ll do and it’ll be like Sark never left (except, I guess there’s now more booze for the rest of us to share).
But, I hardly see that happening. For this team to be reasonably good, we’re going to need steady play from our receivers. Mickens is going to have to be a true #1 receiver, and Pettis will need to take a step up after a promising Freshman season.
We’re going to need to lean HEAVILY on our running game. One of Coleman, Cooper, or Washington will have to step up and be a huge force for this team.
The defense will need to not be a wet paper bag. Gonna have to find a way to bend & not break. The secondary has a lot of talent, but who knows if the front seven is going to get enough push to let them do their thing?
And the quarterback is going to need to be more than just a game manager who avoids turnovers. Make no mistake, he will NEED to avoid turnovers, but he also better be someone who’s got that clutchness gene. This isn’t going to be a Husky team that rampages through the conference. If this team is going to win games, it’s going to win CLOSE games.
Gun to my head: I’m going with the majority and saying the Huskies win 4 games. I think we’re for sure going to lose tonight, and I have a bad feeling it’s going to be by a lot of points. I think half our wins come from the non-conference duds, our third win probably comes from either Cal or Utah, and our last win happens at Oregon State (here’s to hoping they’re a total trainwreck and keep us from being last). For what it’s worth, I think the Cougars beat us in the Apple Cup and I think Luke Falk ends up being the next Ryan Leaf (in other words, a good thing for the Cougs, and a very bad thing for whoever drafts him #2 overall in the NFL).
In Coach Pete We Trust? Maybe in 2016.