Well, the season is now upon us. It is game week against Stanford and I honestly have no idea what kind of team we have on our hands. But guess what, there is not a team in this conference who knows who they really are. There is not a team out there who has played to their potential in my mind. Oregon has serious issues up front on the OL, UCLA is OL deficient, ASU has a defense problem, Stanford hasn’t really played anyone and is dreadful in the red zone offensively, USC is coached by Steve Sarkisian, OSU plays football on Saturdays and no one really realizes it, Arizona is just weird, WSU is WSU, Colorado makes no sense, Utah looks nice but also hasn’t played anyone, and Cal is still ranked way too high. I have no idea where Washington stands in all of this, part of me thinks we are a complete disaster, and part of me thinks that we are going to surprise people out there that believe we are a complete disaster. I am being mentally torn apart by this team and the season hasn’t really even started yet.
Let’s dive into the actual game for this week against the Cardinal of Stanford, focusing on the defense first. They currently are the number one scoring defense in the country, allowing just 13 points in their three games this year. That schedule they have played consists of UC Davis, USC, and Army. Obviously, Washington will present better athletes than both UC Davis and Army presented them (games in which they gave up no points). Then you look at their one loss this year to USC, a 13-10 ugly football game. You can say they were able to hold USC to 13 points, but is USC really that great offensively? USC started off strong, scoring over 50 points against Fresno State; but then we learned that anyone who plays Fresno State scores over 50 points. Plus, Boston College handled USC up front all day long and really dominated them. So once again, do we really know anything about Stanford?
Problem is that offensively speaking UW seems to be pretty challenged right now. At least sometimes they are offensively challenged, other times they aren’t offensively challenged. All of this is just adding to my confusion on this team right now. One of the big keys to the game offensively in my book will be whether UW can get a play over the top on Stanford early. They have to loosen up the front seven and if they can get a deep shot early I think it could pay dividends in the game.
On offense Stanford has had difficulties as well, as evidenced by the USC game from two weeks ago. Over and over again they failed in the red zone, and in the end it cost them the game. Stanford has been in the red zone just 14 times on the season, they have scored points eight times with six of those scores being touchdowns. Statistically speaking that is not good at all. They rank 124th out of 126 teams in red zone scoring percentage, only Akron, South Alabama, and Kent State are worse. And when you look at the all-important red zone touchdown percentage they are 112th in the nation. As bad as UW has been offensively we have scored all 19 times we have been in the red zone, with 14 of them being touchdowns.
Perhaps the best news for UW leading into this game is that the Stanford style of football matches up well with what our weakness is defensively. Obviously UW plays a ton of young players in the secondary, but Stanford is really dedicated to the running game. Also, Stanford has not had much success throwing over the top this year, they have only thrown one pass over 50 yards. If our front seven can continue to get after the QB at the rate they have been this season I believe we can hold them down a bit. The question will be will our offensive be able to move the ball and sustain drives and capitalize on opportunities.
This is such an interesting time to be a Husky fan. I honestly have no idea what to expect from this team on Saturday and going forward. The preseason is over and now it is time to find out who this team really is. When fall camp was going on and posters on the board were talking about how the non-conference schedule is basically a preseason schedule I just rolled my eyes. But as the preseason played out, and in looking at how the coaches handled it, I now actually agree that they basically treated those games as just that, scrimmages. I have not seen anything offensively or defensively that has really been exotic (I don’t consider trick plays to be exotic, as they are often put into games to make future teams have to waste time and plan for them). I don’t believe we have shown many blitzes this year so far. Offensively, I think we have been pretty vanilla as a whole and have held a lot back. Even when we have been in some difficult situations the coaches have not panicked and opened up the playbook. And that is a credit to them.
All I know right now is that Friday night I will be drinking a great deal of Coke and getting crunk as the anticipation of the first real game of the season will be upon us. It will be interesting to see how the team plays on Saturday or it may not be interesting. Either way, it is interesting though and I hope Swaye survives to see the end of the game.
My prediction for the game: UW 24 – Stanford 17