BYU is going to come into Husky Stadium with the full knowledge that a possible national championship is on the line. Washington needs to be mentally prepared because they are playing a team on a mission - no pun intended.
BYU is currently ranked 15th in the country which puts them in a very good position to play in the national championship game if they go undefeated. Beating out of conference opponents Washington and UCLA will vault them into the top ten early this year. The biggest obstacle in conference will be beating rival Utah who just finished off Michigan in the Big House last weekend.
BYU is going to run and throw the ball at the Huskies using one of the more potent offenses the Dawgs will face this season. Max Hall is a big time QB who has good mobility, touch, and accuracy. He completed over 60% of his passes last season. He will be surrounded by a lot of age and experience since the majority of BYU players sat out two years to go on a mission.
We saw what happened to Washington last week going up against a team with twice as much as experience. This week the Huskies go up against an experienced team that is a couple of years older on average. Washington is going to have to grow up quite a bit in only one week to be able to stick with these guys.
The key on defense is going to be trying to hold the Cougars under 30 points. BYU is going to get there points against almost every opponent this year. If Washington plays defense like they did last week the over and under on this one might be over 70 points with the Cougars picking 40-50 of them.
The key on offense is to score more points than the Cougars. That is easier said than done after the dismal offensive performance Washington had last week against Oregon. Look for Bronco Mendenhall to take a cue from Bellotti and stack the box to open the game.
Washington faced the number two defense in my opinion in the Pac Ten last weekend and was shut down three quarters of the game. BYU's defense won't be as good as Oregon's, but they really don't have to be until Washington shows it can burn teams for stacking the box. Jake is going to have to show he can win the game with his arm. It is crucial that Washington comes out attacking through the air to loosen up the BYU defense.
Breaking Down BYU
The BYU offense is led by Max Hall who had a good debut season as the starting quarterback for the Cougars, throwing for 3,848 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. If he makes the progress that many signal callers make heading into their second year running the show, the BYU offense will be very hard to stop.
Receiver Austin Collie returned from his mission last year and immediately became Hall’s favorite target. This year should be even better for Collie, but Hall will have plenty of other options. Tight end Dennis Pitta is a superb pass catcher and a nice target in the redzone and Luke Ashworth and Spencer Hafoka both had great springs after coming back from their missions and should compliment Collie at the wideout spots quite well.
On defense replacing a majority of the secondary and a few starting linebackers is tops on the list of things to do for BYU. Corners Brandon Howard and Scott Johnson have some experience, but they will be tested for the first time this week against Washington.
Making matters more disheartening is the loss of linebackers Kelly Poppinga, Bryan Kehl and Markell Staffieri. Those will not be easy guys to replace and that will put a lot of pressure on some inexperienced players. Former tight end Vic So’oto might find himself in a starting role and Matt Bauman has to prove that he is ready for a full time starting position.
While the back eight has some issues that need addressed, the defense has its leader with Jan Jorgensen. As a sophomore, Jorgensen tallied 14 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. As an upperclassman, and one of the more experienced players on the team, he will be asked to be a leader as well as a sack machine. And as long as the front line can get pressure, the secondary will have some time to adjust.
What do I think?
I had this game marked as a possible "W" before the season began. BYU does not have the horses Oregon does on defense so Washington should be able to move the ball better on Saturday. It is much easier to play a ranked opponent at home than on the road so figure that Husky Stadium is going to give these guys a big boost.
If the UW defense can put together four good quarters and keep the Cougars under thirty points I think the Huskies win this one. The question is when was the last time the UW defense put together four good quarters?
Win this one and the ugliness of the second half against Oregon becomes a faded memory.