After a rough stretch that marks the fifth straight year under Sark the team has suffered a 3-game losing streak, and in the wake of the death of legendary former coach Don James, the Huskies look to rebound this weekend vs. Cal. They couldn't have asked for a softer landing this year in-conference, as the Bears - already a young team adjusting to a new coaching staff - have been decimated by injuries and are facing a possible QB change, and rank with Colorado as the two clear cellar-dwellers in the conference this year.
Injuries haven't escaped Washington either - QB Keith Price was affected by his lingering thumb injury vs. ASU, and while Sark has declared that Price is ready to go and looked good today in practice, we heard similar sentiments prior to last week's game. A healthy Price can be a significant weapon if he gets moderate protection from his OL and is being asked to play to his strengths. But the line play took a big turn for the worse the last two weeks, and Sark has been pushing the downfield passing game in recent weeks despite middling success.
This is where a return to the excellent run game the team has shown most of the season would be a big boost. RB Bishop Sankey had been the model of consistency prior to last week, and he's shown if you give him even adequate blocking, he can turn it into gold. On paper, Cal should provide little resistance defensively as they've been gashed heavily on the ground and even worse through the air. So if it turns out that backup QB Cyler Miles has to come into the game, this is about as favorable a match-up as you'd want, and Miles provides the added bonus of making the QB keep on the zone read a legitimate threat.
Justin Wilcox's defense won't have it so easy, as Cal has piled up yards this year despite starting true Fr. QB Jared Goff. The good news is their scoring output hasn't matched their yardage, and while the passing game has put up big numbers, their run game has been terrible. So it looks to be strength vs. strength, as the Husky pass defense still ranks among the best in the country.
One would think that after the embarrassment this team suffered last week, the butt-chewing they've undoubtedly faced since then from coaches and the emotions surrounding honoring Coach James before the game and the quality of opponent should all combine to spell a big blowout win for the Dawgs. Color me a touch jaded though - I suspect the thumb injury to KP will mean the offense doesn't operate at peak efficiency, and while I expect the Huskies to win fairly comfortably, it may not be the cathartic butt-kicking fans are hoping for: Washington 38, Cal 13
Bishop Sankey gets back on track. OL looks like they did at beginning of season. Steen states that a 30 point victory is not enough. UW 45 Cal 13
As somebody noted in one of the comment threads, how appropriate is it that the first game to pop up on our schedule following the passing of Don James is the very team that he reeled off 19 straight victories against over a 24 year span. Kind of makes Oregon's little "Decade of Dominance" pale in comparison.
Obviously, I like the Huskies in this one for a variety of reasons. First, I think the players care and I know that they were embarrassed by what they produced - or failed to produce - last Saturday. Such a trigger can be a powerful motivator in focusing one's preparation which, as you all know, is the key to gameday execution. Second, the Huskies are at home where they have simply dominated just about every team not named Oregon over the last few years. Finally, there is a talent mismatch between the healthy players that UW can put on the field versus those that Cal, who have been crushed by injuries this year, can put on the field.
Without knowing who the QB is going to be, I'm hesitant to predict a final score. I'm still jaded by the Nick Montana start against OSU and I'm sensitive to the notion that a young QB making his first start is going to make mistakes - some of which could certainly even up the Cal injury situation. Still, I'm going to go ahead and guess that we get Keith Price behind center and whole lot of the rushing attack featured behind him. I predict that this is the game that Sark gets refocused on the notion of balance with an emphasis on running and spreading the carries around his top three backs (including Jesse Callier and Dwayne Washington). I also predict that the O-Line has a comeback effort spiced with some extra nastiness as an answer to the embarrassment of last weekend. Defensively, I like the fact that our speed rushers are going up against a dinged up Cal offensive line and a presumably green QB (whether that be Zach Kline or Jared Goff). Let's guess 5 sacks on the day for a beleaguered D-Line. We'll call it a Husky win by the score of 34-21.
After the game, the debate on whether or not Steve Sarkisian should get fired will rage on because, well, he should have won by more. We'll rehash all the same points that we did this week and at least two people will get 24 hour banhammers for dragging somebody's mother or kids into the argument.