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UW at BYU - Psychology and Defense

Though the Vegas betting line favors BYU by three points, most of the betting pundits advise their clients to bet on Washington as the game grows closer. The following is a quality example of what the tout sheet guys are predicting.

This game promises to be a high-scoring matchup. Washington returns Locker, its leading rusher, and top five receiving targets. That’s bad news for a BYU defense that returns only five starters from last year’s unit that harassed and knocked Sam Bradford out of the game. While BYU will surely be able to move the ball on the ground against Washington, it’s hard to imagine a freshman making his first start being able to keep up with the Huskies and Locker’s passing. A tight game will unfold for a half before Washington pulls away for a win in a shootout.

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All that aside, there are some serious intangibles to consider heading into this one which Washington must successfully deal with if they hope to start the season with a victory. The first one is simply the psychology of playing on the road and winning; this is a program that has not won away from Husky Stadium since November, 2007.

Playing in Provo is never a picnic and this year there is some added fuel to throw on the fire:  there will be 60,000 rabid fans in the seats of Edwards Stadium who seriously hate the Pac 10. The inclusion of Utah and the rejection of BYU by the Pac 10 is something that will not be taken lightly on Saturday. This may be the most hostile environment the Huskies will play in all season.

Steve Sarkisian understands the challenge and took the unusual step last week of scheduling a mock intrasquad game at the Seahawks training facility. The exercise was a full rehearsal of a Husky road trip that included a walk through, meetings, simulated game on a grass field, and an overnight stay in an unfamiliar hotel. I guess we find out on Saturday how well it ended up working.

One thing the experts all seem to agree on is that the Washington offense is capable of putting more points on the scoreboard than BYU. They also are predicting a shoot-out, meaning there is little respect for Washington's defense.

In the article mentioned above, it bluntly states that "BYU will surely be able to move the ball on ground against Washington."  I am not buying into that; I don't believe any of the prognosticators are familiar with a guy named Alameda Ta'amu. My guess is they will after this Saturday, who has transformed his body over the past off-season. We saw glimpses of what Ta'amu could do last season but a lack of conditioning limited his effectiveness to maybe three solid plays in a row at best last season. He is faster, lighter, stronger,and most importantly is capable of staying in the game longer this season before requiring a breather.

I believe the play of Ta'amu and Cameron Elisara inside is key to a Washington victory on Saturday. Ta'amu's ability to draw and blow up double teams opens up opportunities for Elisara, Talia Chrichton, Everette Thompson, and the linebackers. Elisara plays with a high motor and has been disruptive all camp. If UW can cause enough havoc inside it is going to start negating those BYU tackles (big blocks of granite) on the outside.

Washington needs to come out and control the tempo of this game. Defensively the Huskies need to control the line of scrimmage and take BYU out of their game plan. They need to put BYU into obvious throwing situations, apply the heat, pick up turnovers, eliminate the big play, and produce three and outs. Punch BYU in the mouth early and often by forcing them into third and long situations.

Offensively UW need to score early and often. Nothing takes the home crowd out of the game like an early two touchdown lead. Keep the ball in Jake Locker's hands the majority of the game on Saturday and good things will happen. If Washington controls the line scrimmage Jake is going to have a big day.