Before we get to the analysis and prediction, here's a recap of our coverage for the Colorado game:
Big thanks to Ryan Priest and Randall Floyd for putting these together each week - great stuff!
When you look at what Colorado has done this year, it really is remarkable how poorly they've played. By pretty much any metric you want to use, they've been awful. Whether you look at traditional metrics or advanced ones, in virtually any category you can think of they rank at or very near the bottom of all FBS teams. As bad as the 2008 Cougars and Huskies and 2006 Cardinal were, these guys might be worse. I know the Cougs aren't very good this year, but how in the world did they lose to this Colorado team?
It's not entirely hard to understand their struggles given the extreme youth of the 2-deeps, but I don't think anyone was expecting them to be this bad. I figured them for 2-3 wins, and I suppose that's still possible (if extremely unlikely). Coach Embree will most likely get a 3rd year to show some progress, though it will almost certainly come at the expense of some of his staff being sacrificed.
Is there any hope for the Buffs? Well, they have shown signs of a decent ground game of late behind a couple of true frosh - big-bruiser Christian Powell (who nearly committed to the UW) and Donta Abron, as well as RS-So scatback Tony Jones. Their OL has some potential, especially at the edges behind pre-season award candidate LT David Bakhtiari (RS-Jr) and the athletically gifted youngster at RT Stephane Nembot (RS-Fr), a one-time UW commit. Given the troubles the UW defense has had vs. the run this year, facing a good back with the size of Powell vs. our generally undersized defense could be a concern.
The trouble for Colorado is that there aren't any other match-ups that look the least bit favorable. Their passing game is a mess; Jordan Webb, the Kansas transfer started most of the season before finally getting the hook in favor of RS-So Nick Hirschman, who had a good game going last week until getting knocked out with a concussion; he's not expected to play vs. the Huskies. Starting instead will be another transfer (by way of Texas), RS-So Connor Wood; he hasn't had any more success thus far than Webb.
Their defense is awful; name any of the bad defenses Husky fans have had to endure since the firing of Jim Lambright - none of them were as bad as this Colorado unit. And they're equally bad vs. the run and pass. I suppose their special teams aren't terrible (which is actually a mild surprise given the overall state of their roster), but there's nothing there to indicate a significant advantage.
Normally in these predictions I can imagine a scenario where the Huskies could lose, but not this one. There's really no good reason why Colorado should win. Obviously strange things can happen any Saturday, but it would be really, really shocking for the Huskies to lose this one.
Best-case scenario: Wilcox dials up the right calls and the players execute perfectly and Colorado's plan to control the game via their ground game doesn't work. The Husky offense shreds the Buffs behind a brilliantly effective Bishop Sankey on the ground a surgical Keith Price via the air to his favorite targets, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams. Some early turnovers by the Buffs and key 3rd down stops are followed by scoring drives each time and the Huskies lead 28-0 early; Colorado abandons the run game to try to stay in it and Wood is picked off multiple times and the snowball just keeps rolling downhill against the Buffs. It's a full-on rout by halftime and the Husky 2nd & 3rd stringers get plenty of playing time in the 2nd half as Washington rolls 50-3.
Worst-case scenario: The Buffs have a lot of success behind Powell as he bounces through tackles and allows them to sustain long, time-consuming drives. His success forces Wilcox to bring his safeties up and Wood is able to connect for a few big plays over the top. Price gets careless with the football again and has another fumble and interception. It takes a late 4th quarter drive built on the back of Sankey to notch the game-winning TD as the Huskies escape with a precarious 24-17 win.
So which way will it go? I think Colorado will have some success running behind Powell and Abram, enough to chew up some clock and field position. But I think Wilcox will be content to allow them to grind away on the ground so long as they don't bust out a lot of long gainers and take his chances that the Buffs will find very little success vs. his secondary and not be able to sustain very many drives long enough to result in points. It's hard to imagine that the Husky run game won't carve up the Buffs, and then by extension set up the play-action to deadly effectiveness. Colorado hasn't shown they can control weapons like ASJ & Kasen. I suspect that any bad road mojo is basically gone, and was mostly a product of facing superior teams and/or bad match-ups. Barring a lot of bad luck with turnovers and breakdowns on special teams, I think the Huskies should be able to win comfortably and get the backups some playing time in the 4th quarter as the UW wins 41-13.