When Washington has the ball:
Clearly, everyone will be focusing on Jake Locker, but look for Chris Polk to take over this game. Polk ran for 1100 yards last season behind an offensive line that was far less than stellar. When the Huskies are in the red zone, Locker will be in control. The coaching staff thinks Jake is capable of completing 65% of his passes this season. Having a trio of receivers like Kearse, Aguilar, and Johnson will certainly help him attain that goal.
Washington was 3-0 last season when Jake exceeded 70 yards in rushing. Expect him to carry the ball 10-12 times against BYU's 3-4 defense. BYU has replaced most of its front seven and will depend on veterans DE Vic So'to, LB Jameson Frazier, and S Adam Rich to keep Locker and company under control. Expect BYU to play the Huskies straight-up (rather than attacking) in the effort to keep Jake in the pocket.
When BYU has the ball:
Gone from last season's powerful attack are the Cougars' top passer, rusher, tight end, and receiver. The big story of the off-season was who would step in at quarterback, and it looks like dual-threat Riley Nelson and highly touted freshman Jake Heaps will both play.
Nelson is good enough of an athlete to line up anywhere and the Huskies have been focusing on that in practice to avoid the trick-big play. McKay Jacobson, who's averaged 22 YPC in his career, and O'Neil Chambers are the primary targets Nelson and Heaps will be looking for.
At running back, expect several players to get carries, with former Washington recruiting targets JJ DiLuigi and Josh Quezeda getting most of the work.
The key match-up of the game figures to be the BYU offensive line, averaging 6'5", 312 pounds, facing a Husky front four that is solid inside but has some question marks out on the ends.
Defensively, the Huskies made progress under DC Nick Holt last season but still gave up 390 yards per game. The staff would like to cut around 125 yards off that total in 2010. Washington has a seasoned and deep secondary, which will crowd the box and force the BYU QB's to beat them. The key for BYU is to establish a strong running game and control the tempo which will take a bunch of pressure off their young quarterbacks.
Both teams return consistent kickers and punters. The 4,700+ foot elevation will allow for some long kicks that may negate the kickoff return game. Both teams are looking for a player that is a threat to take the ball to the end zone on every kick.
Running Backs: Washington
Offensive Line: BYU
Defensive Line: Even
Defensive Backs: Washington
Special Teams : Even
Steve Sarkisian quote:
"That's just something that teams do when you have somebody that is that athletic like Riley that could easily go play receiver, he's that good of an athlete, that could potentially pose some problems for a defense if you are not prepared for it. And they do so many quarterback runs with him that Jake Heaps could easily line up at wide receiver and he could run their quarterback run stuff. So we won't be surprised if it occurs.''
Bronco Mendenhall quote:
"First, doing our best to control Jake Locker. Second, we have to win field position through special teams. We have a youthful team, and if we don't control field position, we might not be capable...of managing points on either side. And third, we need to plan accordingly for our young quarterbacks..and put them in positions that they're capable of handling with the decisions and plays that give them their best chance to perform."
BYU brings back only 4 starters on defense.
BYU lost all three linebackers from last year and will have to rely on some freshmen players.
For the first time in two decades, the entire Husky football coaching staff returns intact for 2010.
Husky head coach Steve Sarkisian was the Cougars starting quarterback in 1995 and 1996.
The Huskies went 5-7 overall and 4-5 in the Pac-10 last season.
BYU went 11-2 overall and 7-1 in the Mountain West.
Washington is 81-33-6 all-time in season openers, good for a mark of .700.
Washington leads BYU 4-3 in the overall series.
BYU won the last meeting in 2008 28-27 at Husky Stadium.