Dawg Pound Roundtable - Week 10

Desmond Trufant - your 2012 Husky defensive MVP? - Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

This week we tackle a variety of topics, ranging from the current mental state of Cal football, to the Huskies road woes, to our projections for how the Pac-12 final standings will look, and finishing with our picks for offensive and defensive MVP's for the Dawgs. Read on for our takes!

Editor's note - a couple of CODawg's responses were missing when this was originally posted - I've updated it to add in those responses.

Joining Sundodger and I for this week's installment of the UW Dawg Pound Roundtable are esteemed contributors Randall Floyd and CODawg. We lead off with my question for the group:

With the win over an Oregon State team ranked #7, Sark has cooled hot seat talk (at least for the moment). His opponent this Friday however finds his seat reaching what would seem to be scalding levels. With the Bears sitting at 6 losses already and their bowl chances on the brink - especially with games upcoming against Oregon and on the road at Oregon State - what do you suppose the is the mental state of the team and their motivation to save Tedford's job?

kirkd: There's reason to think that Tedford had strained his relationship a bit with mercurial QB Zach Maynard at the start of the season, and if so, that may have also strained his relationship with WR Keenan Allen, and that in turn may have led to a fractured locker room. The way the team has played this year doesn't refute that possibility (though nor does it prove it).

Regardless, I'm not sure that matters. Even if the players don't care about Tedford's fate (and I'd bet most of them still do), they certainly care about their own enjoyment of the season, and even if their bowl chances are remote, I don't think they'll just assume they're out of it until they are actually eliminated. And while, from the outside, it would seem things are really stacked against Cal - especially with news that Allen is out for a while - teams that are backed into a corner can often be dangerous and play with nothing to lose.

That said, I think the confidence of the team is extremely fragile, and the best thing the Huskies could do is get out to a quick lead - that might be all it takes for the Bear team morale to tank and the players to basically throw in the towel.

Sundodger: I think Cal is done. Their fans – even the casual ones that don’t post on internet message boards, have mostly turned. The players have to hear what’s being said about their coach, and their program, even if they won’t admit it. This week is obviously an elimination game for the Bears, but with the two Oregon schools remaining, Cal can’t have much confidence that a win Friday is going to amount to anything.

The Bears might come out with a little pep, but I think if the Huskies can establish a ground game, the Bears will pack it in at some point. If you see them start to argue with each other on the field, or tune out the coaches on the sidelines, you can safely put a fork in them. I think starting the game with the same physical game plan and mindset that worked against Oregon State will kill the Bears’ will pretty quickly.

CODawg: I don't suppose Cal will take this game any differently than if they were 5-4 or 8-1. Cal was expected to have a better season, currently sitting at 3-6 with a bowl game all but gone. If they couldnt have the right mental state to beat Utah or ASU, why would this game be any different? Sure, UW took their beloved coach. But do these kids really care about that? I am sure said coach will not be brought up in any pregame pep talks. Tedford's seat will be real hot after Cal finishes the season with 5 straight losses to finish 3-9. He and Embree are the only coaches at risk of getting canned this year.

Randall Floyd: I can’t imagine that the mental state of the team is a happy one. I am of the opinion that nobody, including the players, knows which California team is going to show up on a given day. The Bears have proven that they can play awful … just go watch the highlights to the "Big Game," or last week’s game against Utah … but they have also shown that they can play hard-nosed and with aggression. Unfortunately for Cal, at least this season, the more apathetic team is the one that has come to play. I think that is where the team has slowly come as a whole. Both of Cal’s previous two games showed a team that was just playing because they are on scholarship. Sadly, the apathy, at least in my opinion has slowly crept over most of the team, and I can see it getting to everybody by the end of the Oregon game or even the Washington game if it’s a blowout loss.

However, I honestly cannot say what the players’ motivation for the rest of the season will be, going forward. I can’t even say that it is their motivation to save Jeff Tedford’s job that will keep them coming onto the field and trying to play competitive teams. In my mind, Tedford’s job is already gone, so I don’t really see his team rallying behind him to "save" him since his job is already lost. But, playing for a coach’s job isn’t the only motivation players have when they step on the field. It clearly didn’t work for the Huskies in 2008, even when the Husky center Garcia called the whole team out on getting Willingham fired. The players will be motivated to save face, to play well for their coach because he’s their coach …, and because they love football.

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Randall's question:

Washington is currently 4-1 at home this season, and they have shown to be two completely different teams on the road versus at home. This year has been especially egregious on the road, the Huskies going 0-3 so far, every single game being a blow-out. In Sark's tenure, the Dawgs are a paltry 5-13 (including neutral bowl games) on the road. What is it going to take for this team to pull out three road wins to finish out the season?

Randall Floyd: It appears the Dawgs have the same problem the Mariners have when they play at Safeco Field: it’s in their head. For some reason the Huskies do one of two things, and I am being über-general here. (1) They come out extremely slow, and lose the game in the first quarter and a half by creating a deficit that they can’t crawl out of. (2) The defense and offense are ready to go, but then at some point during the first half something happens (i.e. a stupid penalty, a missed assignment, or even a turnover), and then the entire team tunes out for the rest of the game.

The Dawgs NEED to change their paradigm. Right now it’s something like "when we go on the road, we just show up …." It needs to be something like "we are going to SHUT UP the opposing fans in the first quarter and keep them quiet for the rest of the game!" (I’m pretty sure this is Tom Brady’s paradigm for away football games.) I don’t know what it will take to get the team’s mindset in the proper frame; it could be running a marathon in only their jock straps, or maybe bungee jumping off the south stands. Whatever it is, the Dawgs have to get the "away game apathy" out of their heads. The only problem is, we can’t move opposing teams fences in to help out.

kirkd: The troubles on the road this year are a touch overblown IMO. Obviously nobody likes getting blown-out, but the losses at Baton Rouge and Eugene aren't all that surprising. LSU is an extremely talented program, and while they've faltered a bit from early-season National Championship talk, they're still 7-1, and Tiger Stadium has always been considered one of the toughest places to play. Oregon is still in the National Championship hunt, and Autzen is also a tough place to play. The Arizona game is obviously more troubling, but I think we underrated how good they were going in to that game. Which is not to say that the blowout we suffered was acceptable, but I'd bet we look back after the season is done and not feel quite as bad about it.

And the Huskies have had some good performances on the road under Sark, including the win at USC in 2010 and the "God's Play" game at Cal to keep alive our bowl hopes (plus the Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska), and 2011 had the big win at Utah.

The road game thing has become an issue this year it seems, and it's certainly something Sark needs to address for this program to take that next step, but I'm pretty confident we'll close this season with at least 2 wins on the road.

Sundodger: The Huskies have had opportunities early on the road, but they haven’t really capitalized. The key, in my opinion, is a fast start that serves to feed off the confidence they should be feeling coming off the Oregon State win. I think saying that they come out "flat" on the road is simply using a catch-all phrase for not playing well. I think that motivation, or preparedness, or state of mind, aren’t really issues – until things start going badly. And the Dawgs, players and coaches, almost seem like they go into road games expecting the worst. They’ve got a monkey on their collective back right now with regards to road games. The only way to get it off is to win. There’s a mental block to that end right now. I think they get over it this week, and I think it’ll be because they start the game with confidence, and keep an even keel when things don’t go exactly according to plan – something they’ve been able to do at home but have definitely struggled with on the road.

There’s another thing to keep in mind with regards to the road record – the Huskies have only lost to one "bad" team on the road dating back to 2010 (Oregon State last season). Every other team they lost to last year finished the season ranked. This year, they’ve played two top-five teams and (current) #22 Arizona. That’s pretty stiff competition. I’m not excusing the nature of the losses, because they’ve been mostly epically bad. But the level of competition eases up considerably from here on out in 2012.

CODawg: I think the overall road record is a little misleading. First of all, I just throw out the 2009 season. I don't think its fair to give much credit for road losses in Sark's first year with a team that went 0-12 the previous season. So if you take his road record the last three year it's 5-8. I say that is pretty darn good considering how far the Huskies fell. And that is before you consider what teams we have lost to on the road the last 3 seasons:

2010:

  • @BYU First game of the season, played at altitude and it was hot. I was there, and I questioned going for it on 4th down late in the game. I know this is one that Sark would have liked back. But BYU is a tough road game.
  • @#18 Arizona - Blowout loss - What's with going to Arizona and when are they off our schedule?
  • @#1 Oregon

The 2010 season also included the win at the Coliseum at Cal and the neutral bowl game victory.

2011:

  • @Nebraska
  • @Stanford
  • @USC
  • @OSU
  • And the bowl game.

The only game there we should have won was OSU, and let's not forget Nick Montana started at QB that game. The other 3 were to great teams and the bowl game ended with basically the whole defensive staff getting fired.

2012:

  • @LSU
  • @Oregon
  • @Arizona

Again 2 great teams on the road and another pretty good Arizona team. I don't like the way lost to Arizona and there is no excuse for that. But we would be upset if we had lost that game by a TD?

So over the past 3 years I see two bad road loses (you could argue 3) and some blowouts to some teams that should have blown us out at home. I hate getting blown out as much as the next guy, especially when the opponent is Oregon. But unlike some I have seen improvement from this team. Now if we get blown out or lose any of our final road games, I may be joining the other camp, but for now I think we are still above my expectations.

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CODawg's question:

With every team in the PAC 12 playing at least 5 conference games, how do you see the rest of the schedule going, including final standings and Championship Game? What teams will become bowl eligible, and where will those teams end up?

CODawg: I think Oregon goes undefeated in the North. I think Stanford takes out Oregon State and finishes second with two losses, and the Dawgs and Beavs tie for third with 3 losses. Cal loses out for fifth place, and WSU either sneaks one out against ASU or UCLA, or loses out.

The South is just a mess. Assuming Oregon State beats ASU and Arizona beats UCLA (as well as Oregon over USC), there will be 4 teams tied at the top with 3 losses. Things will begin to sort themselves out because the four teams in question (ASU, Arizona, UCLA, and USC) play each other quite a few times in the last four weeks, but none of these teams has any margin for error. Arizona probably has the easiest closing schedule, but they’re sitting at three losses right now with four left to play. USC, even with a loss to Oregon, can still guarantee at worst a tie for first (which they’d lose in a tiebreaker only if Arizona is one of those teams). So, all that being said, my money is still on USC to emerge from the South. They’re still the most talented team in that division, even if they must be maddeningly frustrating for their fans.

Oregon, at home, takes down the Trojans for a second time to win the conference.

USC could easily end up with four losses, so beating them isn’t going to be of too much value to the Ducks. If either Kansas State or Notre Dame wins out, I think Oregon misses out on the BCS championship game and has to settle for the Rose Bowl. If the Ducks do manage to get to the BCS championship game, I’m not sure if Stanford is high enough in the BCS polls to be eligible for the Rose.

It’s too far out to project some of the minor bowls with conference tie-ins. So it’s kind of throwing a dart, but I’m sticking with the Huskies in the Sun Bowl.

Randall Floyd: North:

Oregon (13-0)(9-0), Oregon State(10-2)(7-2), Washington (8-4)(6-3), Stanford (8-4)(6-3), California (3-9)(2-7), Washington State (2-10)(0-9)

Bowl Eligible: Oregon: National Championship; Oregon State: Rose Bowl; Washington: Las Vegas Bowl; Stanford: Fight Hunger Bowl

South:

Arizona (9-4)(6-3), USC (8-4)(6-3), UCLA (7-5)(5-4), Arizona State (6-6)(4-5), Utah (5-7)(3-6), Colorado (1-11)(1-8)

Bowl Eligible: Arizona: Alamo Bowl; USC: Holiday Bowl; UCLA: Sun Bowl; Arizona State: New Mexico Bowl

Explanation, do I really need to do one? This took long enough … I think the pecking order in the North is fairly set, though for Washington to place ahead of Stanford, some crazy stuff will need to happen. The South is something I like to call clown vomit (your choice of yogurt mixed with cottage cheese …) Nobody really knows what’s going to happen, but I think that Arizona, even with three conference losses, has the juice and momentum to finish out the season strong and win the south … only to lose to Oregon once again in Autzen Stadium, albeit a much closer score than the previous game.

kirkd: Hmm, good question. Without going through every game, I'll say this:

Oregon will finish undefeated and probably play in the BCS Championship Game.

Oregon State will battle USC and UCLA for a spot in the Rose Bowl.

Stanford, Arizona, UW and ASU will be bowl-eligible and battling for the best of the muddy middle in the conference.

Colorado and Cal won't win again this year, but WSU will surprise someone (hopefully not us).

Sundodger: I think Oregon goes undefeated in the North. I think Stanford takes out Oregon State and finishes second with two losses, and the Dawgs and Beavs tie for third with 3 losses. Cal loses out for fifth place, and WSU either sneaks one out against ASU or UCLA, or loses out.

The South is just a mess. Assuming Oregon State beats ASU and Arizona beats UCLA (as well as Oregon over USC), there will be 4 teams tied at the top with 3 losses. Things will begin to sort themselves out because the four teams in question (ASU, Arizona, UCLA, and USC) play each other quite a few times in the last four weeks, but none of these teams has any margin for error. Arizona probably has the easiest closing schedule, but they’re sitting at three losses right now with four left to play. USC, even with a loss to Oregon, can still guarantee at worst a tie for first (which they’d lose in a tiebreaker only if Arizona is one of those teams). So, all that being said, my money is still on USC to emerge from the South. They’re still the most talented team in that division, even if they must be maddeningly frustrating for their fans.

Oregon, at home, takes down the Trojans for a second time to win the conference.

USC could easily end up with four losses, so beating them isn’t going to be of too much value to the Ducks. If either Kansas State or Notre Dame wins out, I think Oregon misses out on the BCS championship game and has to settle for the Rose Bowl. If the Ducks do manage to get to the BCS championship game, I’m not sure if Stanford is high enough in the BCS polls to be eligible for the Rose.

It’s too far out to project some of the minor bowls with conference tie-ins. So it’s kind of throwing a dart, but I’m sticking with the Huskies in the Sun Bowl.

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And last (but not least), Sundodger's question:

Prior to fall camp starting, I’d guess that most fans would’ve projected Keith Price as the offensive MVP for this team, and one of Desmond Trufant, Danny Shelton, maybe Hao’li Jamora, maybe Shirley, etc. as the defensive MVP. 2/3’s of the way through the season, who do you project it will be by the end of the season for each side of the ball?

Sundodger: On offense, it comes down to two guys for me: Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Bishop Sankey. As great as Seferian-Jenkins’ numbers project to be by season’s end, I have to give the nod to Sankey. Without him, the Huskies have virtually no running attack, and an already anemic offense looks that much worse. The value that he adds, or more importantly what the Dawgs would lose without him, surpasses what Seferian-Jenkins brings by a hair. Sankey didn’t have great games against San Diego State or LSU, but since the Dawgs made a change in the way they’re trying to run ball in the Portland State game, he has averaged over 97 yards a game. I’m not sure how many people would’ve projected him for 1,000-yard season after the first couple of games of the year, but he’s on that pace now. As well as projecting to 13 or 14 TD’s (Polk’s best season was only 12). And the competition lightens up in the next four weeks. He could reasonably finish the season (including a bowl) with close to 1,400 yards. Wow. Pretty good for a guy that was just supposed to be part of a running-back-by-committee.

On defense, it’s Trufant. And it’s as simple as that. He gets left alone by all but the best pass-catch combos in the conference; he held a guy that last week caught 16 passes for 345 yards in Marquise Lee to just 2 catches, and Lee might very well be the best player in college football this year. Trufant plays the run well. He’s confident. And he’s set a tone and a mold for the young corners on the roster to try and follow. He’s going to be missed next year.

CODawg: I will start with defense because its an easy one. Desmond Trufant. Desmond has shown he can be left on an Island and perform against most WR he faces. His ability to play man coverage without help has allowed Wilcox to put more man power towards stopping the run, which has been the key to many victories this year.

Offense is a little tougher. Outside of Price I would have thought it would be ASJ. But teams have taken him away, and he is now hampered with injury. If he gets healthy, he could have a huge stretch and be named MVP. That being said my prediction is Bishop Sankey. He has really improved before our eyes. Coming into this season he was expected to split carries with Callier and maybe be the workhorse in 2013. He has stepped into the workhorse role nicely this year. Against Stanford, which sports the #2 rushing D he ran for 144 yards. With the schedule lining up the way it does; Cal ranked 65th against the run Utah 23, WSU 72, and CU 100, BIshop should finish nicely.

Randall Floyd: The offense has been a disaster this season. There are so many things misfiring, but I don’t need to go into that. For me, the offensive MVP will be Bishop Sankey. He had respectable numbers in the first half of the season, and he has continued to get better and better each week. The kid figured out how to break arm tackles consistently, and has enough butter put on his hips to slide through some pretty small holes that the offensive line has given him thus far this season. Add to that the fact that the defenses the Dawgs are going to be playing tend to give up large amounts of yards on the ground, and then combine it with Sark really committing to the run the rest of the season, you have a recipe for a season where Sankey gets over 1,100 yards on the ground, and 20 TDs.

The defensive MVP will be Desmond Trufant. He entered the season as the favorite to win, at least in my highly regarded opinion, and he has not disappointed. He shut down Marquis Lee, and in every other game, with the notable exception of Oregon State (where he had a couple of lapses), Desmond has SHUT DOWN every receiver he has been set on. He is making opposing QBs automatically check down when they see he’s guarding their number one option on the play. Really, his play has been a thing of beauty this season.

kirkd: On offense, I think the most likely candidates are Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams, with Bishop Sankey a dark-horse. I think Price will finish on an upswing, but even if he does, it will mean continued good numbers accruing for ASJ and Kasen. I'd give ASJ the slight lead now (I believe he still leads all TE's nationally in receptions and reception yardage), though his gimpy ankle means that Kasen's production might start to surpass him. If Sark continues to lean on the running game, Sankey could close with a "rush" (I didn't want to do it - sorry) and eclipse 1,000 yards and possibly stake a claim to MVP status.

On defense, I can't imagine it being anyone other than Desmond Trufant. The Sr. CB has really blossomed in the new schemes of Justin Wilcox and is showing that pre-season mock drafts placing him in the outskirts of the 1st round had merit. I suppose Sean Parker has an outside shot if he can finish strong, and guys like John Timu, Danny Shelton, Travis Feeney, Shaq Thompson and Marcus Peters could leave us feeling really excited about the defense next year, but I think this is clearly Trufant's award to lose.

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Those are our answers - chime in and tell us what you think!

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