Brad orders bacon-wrapped shrimp
So, a pretty good win. I'll take it. At the beginning of the season, though, did you think we'd be saying that? I know I didn't. Sure, Cal is probably better than I thought they'd be. But when you look at their remaining schedule, at best, they're going to be scraping in to a bowl game. It's a nice in-conference road win, but it's still a little scary that that's the "best" win the Huskies have had.
This defense is turning out to be what we expected it would be. Even with the youth playing in the secondary. Danny Shelton is making himself millions of dollars right now. In a way, he still falls into the "what might've been" category when I hear about his bench not improving from high school until this season. 445 pounds is a big number, but isn't that the kind of guy that, putting up that kind of weight in high school, should be the first 500+ pound bench guy in what seems like forever? And that little digression brings me back to the comments from strength coach Tim Socha this spring about how he had to remodel the brand new weight room to get rid of a lot of the machines and put in more free weights....Moving on.....
The D was very solid. Great move putting Shelton and Elijah Qualls in together (finally!). I was a little surprised that it was Shelton that moved outside instead of Qualls, but hey, it seemed to work. I still wouldn't oppose to seeing them in together with Qualls on the outside, though. Cyler Miles managed the passing game well. And the play calling worked to his strengths more - even though it sounds counterintuitive, he's better throwing the ball down the field (or at least beyond the line of scrimmage) than he is throwing it laterally. At least on the bubble screens. Tunnel screens, like the one that Ross took for the long TD, are a different throw, and one that he can make.
The biggest question for me right now is, What have the Huskies done to win that seems sustainable? It seems like they're team that's largely winning on the margins. They can't consistently count on running the ball. The passing game is middling at best. Shaq Thompson is tied for the team lead in touchdowns, and four of those have come on defense. The team plays good defense, forces turnovers, and takes care of the ball (+2.33 turnover margin per game on average). It gets after the passer well, so in the 70's or 80's, that's a game plan for winning. Is it today? Are those things you can actually count on?
If you had to put your own money on the following prop bets, which way would you go (assuming a bowl and 8 more games)?
1. The defense scores zero more touchdowns the rest of the season, or the defense scores 1 or more touchdowns. (5 thus far)
2. Hau'oli Kikaha and Danny Shelton combine for 7 or fewer sacks the rest of the season, or combine for 11 or more. (17 thus far)
3. The Huskies finish with 6 or fewer turnovers for the season, or finish with more than 12. (1 thus far)
4. The Huskies finish with 2,000 or fewer rushing yards for the season, or they finish with more than 2,400 yards (1,149 thus far)
5. Cyler Miles passer rating below 135 for the season, or above 149.9. (147.2 thus far)
On to Oregon. And this streak. I don't really get as hung up on it as a lot of Husky fans. It sucks, but this is the 4th coach in the last 11 meetings heading in to Saturday. I want to beat those rat bastards, but mostly because it'd be a big win for the program more than ending some sort of streak. It's kind of like the Huskies' winning streak against Cal - it becomes way more important for the winning team to maintain it than it does the losing team to break it, at a certain point. That's where I am. I just want the Dawgs to get a big win. Even though Oregon got a key player back on the offensive line last week, this is the best that the Huskies have matched up with them in a while. I've always been an advocate of pressuring a higher-powered offense, but I'm beginning to rethink that to a degree - IF - you can get disrupt an offense with only 3 or 4 defensive linemen. This is the best chance the Huskies have had of doing that in the last decade. If they can do it, they can kind of follow the Stanford formula of playing safe and keeping things in front of them. Make sure tackles, and allow Oregon to get impatient with their running game....
Darin gets the special
I'm basically with you about Cal, but perhaps a bit more philosophical. All the Dawgs could do last week was beat the Bears, which they did. They couldn't beat Oregon, they couldn't beat UCLA, they couldn't go back and beat Stanford. Only Cal. Mission accomplished.
Would I have liked a better offensive performance? Sure. Especially on the ground. Given where our passing game is, we need to be able to run effectively. And it would have been nice to see 150 on the ground in the second half. That didn't happen, obviously.
However, I have figured out what the Huskies' offensive problem is. This is a little technical, so try to follow me, here.
A typical spread offense includes five linemen, a QB, a running back, and four receivers, one of whom is often a tight end. The Huskies have been playing with five linemen, a QB, and a running back, but only three receivers! No wonder we're having trouble moving the ball sometimes: we're a man down! At first I thought this might be a penalty-box situation, like in hockey. But I've read the whole rule book and there's nothing in there about it. I think the coaches are purposely not putting that fourth receiver in the game -- or maybe somebody's on the can or something.
What? What's that, you say? I forgot about Kasen Williams? That's weird.
I am currently the offensive coordinator for the undefeated Seattle-Tacoma Box Lightning fourth-grade flag football team. Yes, this blog has access to that kind of skill. Let me tell you about the tunnel screen. We run a four-receiver set, two-by-two. Our action on the tunnel screen is for the QB to roll to the play side, crossing with the outside receiver, so the pass is almost a pitch, like a reverse. The downside is that it brings the linebackers outside faster, but the upside is that the pass is easy and it puts a lot of pressure on the cornerback, who has to be thinking about a QB run-pass option.
This is all a long way of saying: yes, the pass on a tunnel screen is a lot easier. And also that it could be combined in other ways as part of a package with the zone-read (or power-read).
The pass on an outside bubble screen is actually not that easy at all. The QB could actually be throwing 20 or 30 yards in the air. The receiver isn't moving, but precision is important. Keith Price was super good at this -- he tended to put the ball in the right spot for the receiver to turn up-field instantly. It just hasn't been a very strong play this year. The receivers aren't quite the same bunch as last year, but clearly Miles has struggled at times as well.
Speaking of Miles, I was very happy to see him pick up a couple of third downs with his feet last week. That ability is something he brings that Price did not have. He is also very, very good at protecting the ball -- one turnover all year. We may be giving up some production in exchange for that, but we might as well be grateful for the upside. No turnovers is a good thing.
The Huskies have lived by the big play on defense. Although they did a pretty good job of shutting Cal down at times, they also got a lot of sacks, a lot of pressure, turnovers, etc. There's always a question of whether that's sustainable, and whether it will scale up to better teams. I don't have those answers, but I do think it's a good defensive team, which a few very good players and a lot of solid ones. No obvious weak spots, other than the youth in the secondary, which becomes less weak week-by-week.
Week, weak, weke. Doesn't sound like a word anymore.
1. The defense will score three more touchdowns. Take it to the bank.
2. Kikaha and Shelton will combine for exactly 11 sacks, of which Kikaha will have eight.
3. The Huskies will have four more turnovers through the bowl game.
4. The Huskies will have 2,100 rushing yards, including the bowl and the Pac-12 championship game.
5. Below 135 for Miles. Although I think he'll become more effective over the year, the competition will get better, and the outcome measured by passer rating may not.
Now for you:
A. How many All-Pac-12 first- or second-team players with the Huskies have?
B. The Moneyline is about 1300, suggesting about a seven percent change the Dawgs will win. If you had to bet...?
C. My over-under for Pac-12 wins is now 4.5. Which way would you go?
Brad over-does it on the bread
I've heard nothing but good things about Seattle-Tacoma Box Lightning. Even the fifth graders are afraid to play them.
What is a Kasen Williams? Should the Huskies try to get one? If so, what would you do with one, speaking as the offensive coordinator of the undefeated Seattle-Tacoma Box Lightning fourth grade flag football team?
1st Team All Conference: Danny Shelton, Hau'li Kikaha, Shaq Thompson, Marcus Peters
2nd Team All Conference: Micah Hatchie, John Ross
If I had to bet real money, I think the Dawgs cover. As for the final record, I can't even fathom a Husky team that hires what is universally lauded as a better coach than the previous one, and winning fewer games. I heard someone (and for the life of me, I can't remember who - it might've been Petro Pappagorgio) say that the Huskies are "peaking" right now. I find that to be an absolutely ridiculous assertion. Even if the Huskies lose tomorrow, do you see 3 more losses on the schedule? Are you impressed with UCLA or ASU right now? Arizona? WSU? Yeah, there will probably be a loss in there. But three? No way. Over, and I feel pretty confident in that.
Go Dawgs. Dammit, Go Dawgs!!
I don't see why the Huskies would bother getting a Kasen Williams of their own -- he never catches the ball! What's the point, really?
In all seriousness, though, Kasen is an under-used weapon at this point. He's basically acting as a blocker on every play -- wiping out one defender, who has to cover him. A decoy. If he's not "open" enough to throw him the ball, they should find somebody who can be. But I'm sure you and I agree that he is plenty open, even when it doesn't look like it. I don't have a good sense of how healthy he is or isn't, but this seems like some low-hanging fruit.
I basically agree with your All-Pac-12 list. I think Colin Tanigawa has played pretty well, too, but I don't know if it's enough to reach that threshold.
As you know, I think this talk about "better" coaches and number of wins is a little silly. How do you know Don James was a good coach? He won lots of games. How do you know Tyrone Willingham wasn't? He lost lots. So we won't know if Chris Petersen is a better coach until after the fact. If Sarkisian were still here, would you be predicting five wins, like I am? If so, what is it you think Petersen is going to do better (in one year) to get six or seven or whatever? I'm not saying there's nothing to coaching, I'm saying
a) that the marginal differences between coaches are small once you eliminate the truly bad ones,
b) a lot of good coaching is good recruiting, which takes time, and
c) the lion's share of identifying "good" coaches comes after the fact.
I think the Huskies have a much better than seven percent chance of winning. I don't think it's 50/50, but I would not be shocked if they won, and I would not call it a huge upset. I'd put my money on Washington. The defense is good enough to keep Oregon tethered to Earth (by which I mean below 30 points). The question is whether the offense is good enough to score that many. They aren't, of course. They're going to need a little help. Some turnovers, some special teams plays. Things need to go right for the win, but it's not out of the question like it has been at times.