Washington will go through a walk through tonight in preparation for Saturday's game. The practice will be closed to the public and media. Behind closed doors the Huskies will work on their gameplan with emphasis on the first 15 scripted plays and final preparations for the defensive schemes they will use against LSU.
Most of what you would see if you were there is simply teaching and final preparation for the game. If there are any tricks, and there are bound to be a few you can bet that the final touches will be added tonight. Another thing they will work on is signals, and substitutions. They want to make sure everything goes smoothly since the team is still going through the adjustment of working with a new staff.
After practice starts a period of mental preparation when the team goes to a hotel the night before the game. You can expect the coaches to be meeting with the players and themselves throughout the evening before the lights go out.
Once game time rolls around I expect to see the most prepared team that Washington has put on a football field in seven long years. All the pieces still aren't in place and only recruiting and teaching will take care of that. However this team is in the best physical shape they have ever been in and I am sure the excitement, motivation, and emotion when they hit the field will be at it's highest since Rick Neuheisel's last game at Washington.
Saturday's game is a bit of a mystery because even though we know Washington is improved as a team we are all unsure how that will translate against an opponent like LSU. We have been over it all week but for one last time the Tigers have superior strength, speed, depth, and talent on paper in comparison to Washington. They also have an edge in overall confidence. LSU expects to win and they are used to winning.
Washington has lost 14 straight games. Overcoming that stigma is something that the coaches have been working on since late December. Our players expect to win. Make no mistake about it. The question is do they know how to win? Do they know how to keep a team on the ropes if they seize an advantage? We find out on Saturday.
As far as the losing goes no matter what happens against LSU it will stop when Idaho comes into town the next week. Most of us including the players and the coaches are hoping we don't have to wait a week. I think it will be a good game. I think we will play LSU as tough as we played Ohio State a couple of years ago. We are going to be in this game in the second half. There is an old adage: When you keep the underdog around for too long bad things will happen. We just need to eliminate mistakes and make some stops on defense.
Quarterback - Washington...Locker has a lot more experience and has the ability to take over a game. Jordan Jefferson is only making his third start.
Tailbacks - LSU...I like UW's tailbacks but LSU returns a 1000 yard back and has plenty of depth. Charles Scott is a premier back who returns for his senior year.
Fullback - Washington...Paul Homer is one of the best in the country. He should be more involved in the offense this year.
Wide Receivers - Even...I think our receivers match up pretty well with LSU. Most would give LSU the edge but we are giving UW the benefit of the doubt by calling it even.
Tight Ends - LSU...The Tigers return an All SEC candidate and the Huskies have three guys with limited experience.
Offensive Line - LSU...Ciron Black is probable first rounder. Washington has more questions than answers.
Defensive Tackle...Even...LSU is breaking in three new DL's and I like the way our guys have progressed this fall. Most won't agree this early but I think Elsiara and Ta'amu will impress.
Defensive End...Washington...Teo Nsheim is one the nations best, Jones is ready to breakout, and we have quality depth behind them.
Linebacker...Washington...We have three excellent starters but depth could be a problem. If we don't go into the depth I put Savannah, Mason, and Foster up against about anyone.
Cornerback...LSU...The Tigers have a huge edge when it comes to speed at this position. Washington isn't at full strength because of injuries to Glenn and Mosley. Trufant is definitely the X-factor.
Safety...LSU...I love what Nate Williams brings but he is starting beside Greg Walker who is starting and playing in his first regular season game.
Special Teams...LSU...The Tigers have the fastest return man in the country and plenty of talented depth. Trindon Holliday is one of college footballs most exciting players. He can take it to the house anythime he gets his hands on the ball.
Washington running game versus the LSU defense
Washington couldn't run on anyone last year even before Jake Locker went down. Jake was Washington's only big threat to pick up rushing yards in 2008. Washington had an inexperienced stable of running backs last season that featured too many players not physically ready to take the pounding that is handed out at this level.
In 2009 Washington has five players who are talented and have built the muscle to stay healthy. Chris Polk can be a big play type of back and Johri Fogerson is a pure football player with great instincts on either side of the ball. Washington has dramaticially improved this position since last fall.
The question is can the Washington offensive line open up holes against LSU? Most experts think they can because the Tigers are breaking in a new defensive line and they weren't known for their defense in 2008. I think the Washington backs are going to be able to pick up some consistent yards on the ground. Sark says Locker will run less in 2009 but teams are still going to keep an eye on him which should open some opportunities for the other backs.
Washington Passing Game versus the LSU defense
Jake Locker has made steady progress as a passer since spring practice. Most observers think he has improved enough to approach a 60% completion ratio if he has adequate protection. One thing Locker does well is throw on the run and that is a good thing because he is going to have to do that a lot this year to help out his offensive line.
Washington's receiving corps is a year older, stronger, wiser and will hit the field with the benefit of better schemes and coaching. Freshman James Johnson has pushed himself into the starting lineup and has been surprising people with his ability to get open and make catches. Keep an eye on James because he is going to be special.
I don't think the LSU pass rush is going to be a big factor in this game. The key matchup will be the Husky receivers getting open against an extremely fast and physical defensive backfield. Yards after the catch may not happen as much as we like because we are going up against some very fast closers.
LSU rushing game versus the Washington defense
This is it what it all likely comes down to on Saturday night. Can Washington stop the LSU running game and force them to rely on the arm of a QB who has only started three games in his career? We know our interior defensive line is improved and we have faith in our ends. We expect our linebackers to play well. We have good size at CB when you bring Richardson and Trufant into the game. Nate Williams is a three year starter about to take it to the next level at safety who has become a potential enforcer in the middle.
LSU on the other hand has an offensive line that could develop into being very dominant as the season goes on. Ciron Black may be the best offensive lineman in the country and RB Charles Scott could end up having a big night against Washington. If he does have a big night and LSU also springs some big plays from the "Wildcat" they are going to win this game. Washington has to stop or limit the run. They need to eliminate big plays. They need to force LSU into passing situations on third down.
LSU passing game versus the Washington Defense
Ciron Black I would like to introduce you to Daniel Teo Nesheim and Darion Jones. Your responsibility will be to block one of those guys the majority of the night. I don't think LSU wants to have to pass more than twenty times on Saturday night. If they pass more than that it means the run isn't working as well as they want and Washington's interior line is holding up well.
If that is the case against the run then it bodes very well against the pass because that means the interior is playing well enough so the offense can't concentrate all their efforts on Teo Nesheim. when Daniel get loose in an offensive backfield bad things happen to the opposition. Last time we saw a good example of that was against Cal in 2007. Teo Neshiem was just dominating in that game.
Jordan Jefferson still has a lot to learn but he has some good tools to work with. He looked pretty good in the Chick-A-Fil Bowl and he has the ability to connect if protected well. If he does have to pass the pressure will be on him to not turnover the ball. The QB spot has been a problem at LSU even though Jefferson has looked decent this spring and fall. They are hoping that Jefferson has matured enough to not turn over the ball.
I don't think the Washington defensive backfield is as bad as people say they are going to be. I think the experience gained last year will be of great benefit. We will just have to wait and see how they play as a unit on Saturday night. They will need to make an immediate adjustment to the speed LSU will bring to the field.
The special teams battle
LSU is solid in every single area of their special teams units going into this game. They don't have any question marks plus they have the fastest return man in the country. Sarkisian has said for Washington to start winning they need to win the special team segments of games. The early returns are mixed. We still aren't sure about how many points Erik Folk will take off the scoreboard because of missed PAT''s and FG's. Our return team has looked excellent in practice but is that because our coverage team is terrible? The punting between the two teams is the only thing that seems even on paper. That being said new Husky punter Will Mahan has never kicked before in a major college game.
Washington needs to come up at least even with LSU in this segment of the game. They can't give up points on special teams if they expect to have a chance in this one.
The biggest intangible in any game is turnovers. As an LSU poster noted it just isn't turnovers. It is where you turn over the ball that matters the most. Washington needs to strive for at least a plus two turn over ration in this game. The defense has actually done a good job this fall in working how to strip the ball and take it away. The rain could be a factor for both teams. Holding onto the ball is crucial to Washington and taking it away from LSU is the only way I see us having a chance in this one.
Jake Locker is another Washington intangible. Jake makes things happen and he is a big play type of guy. He make severyone who surrounds him look better. If he can pass for 250 or more yards and pick up 75 or so on the ground I think we have a chance to win this one. LSU has had a problem with Tim Tebow and they are both similar players. LSU has to contain Jake Locker.
Washington has a talented group of WR's so it takes someone special to pass them by and earn an immediate strating job as a freshman. James Johnson could be the most talented receiver Washington has had on the roster since the days of ET and Reggie Williams.
Trindon Holliday is a player Washington has to keep the ball away from.
LSU's frosh sensation Russell Shepard is a guy to keep an eye on because you never know where he is going to line up. He ould line up at QB, RB, or WR depending on the scheme LSU will be running.
This will be the farthest LSU has traveled to play a game in the history of the program, but the Tigers have had success in non-conference play lately, winning all 19 games outside of the SEC since Miles took over in 2005.
Washington opponents averaged 38.6 points last year, fourth-worst in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Washington has lost 14 straight games since a 37-23 win over California on Nov. 17, 2007.
The teams' only previous meeting was a 40-14 LSU home win in 1983.
Washington is catching up in the experience ratio this season. They have an average 0f 1.76 years per player compared to LSU's 1.53. The Tigers roster is made up of 21% of seniors compared to Washington's 18%.
LSU returns 7 starters on both sides of the ball. Washington returns 10 on defense and eight on offense.
LSU averages 6'2 229 pounds per player across the board. Washington averages 6'1 and 234 pounds. Thank you Morgan Rosborough!
Kyle Sterling who is a pro handicapper predicts a 38-30 win for LSU. He thinks Washington will cover the spread in this one.