If you've been reading the comments here you have a pretty good idea of the general mood around here - lots of praise for the defense and wondering what the heck is going on with the offense. After concussion symptoms kept QB Cyler Miles from practicing most of last week, RS-Fr QB Troy Williams got his first start. While nasty weather conditions made things particularly difficult on the young QB, he also looked like a first time starter - rattled, jumpy and mistake-prone. Miles will return to the starting role in time for a homecoming (he hails from Denver's Mullen High School) and Husky fans will cross their fingers that he can pump some life back into the offense.
The good news is they are going up Colorado's defense. This unit is...not good. In conference play the Buffs rank last in run defense, surrendering 207.8 ypg and 6.2 ypc (!) They are no better vs. the pass, ranking last in allowing a 170.9 pass efficiency rating. While the run game for the Huskies has been middling so far this year, they showed some signs of life last week vs. ASU. Whether it's Shaq Thompson, Deontae Cooper or Lavon Coleman toting the rock, this is the game for the Washington running game to get healthy and for OC Jonathan Smith to commit to it.
Miles should also find success in the air. Colorado only has 1 interception in conference play and gives up 13.4 ypc on 63.7% completion pct. Washington shouldn't need to pass to win, but it would be encouraging to see some success here that includes using the middle of the field and some shots deep.
Washington's defense will get a good test from an improved Buff offense. They have been very good about taking easy gains and putting together long drives. They are one of the least explosive offenses in the country (and Washington's defense is among the most stingy in that regard), but I expect them to put together some sustained drives. Don't expect too many sacks - Colorado has been particularly stingy this year, especially considering their volume of pass attempts. Part of this is due to QB Sefo Liufau getting the ball away quickly to underneath routes or bubble screens. On the plus side, he's not always careful with the ball, throwing 8 picks so far in conference play (3.3%).
While this probably won't be a runaway win that would provide a bit of relief for Husky fans, they should be able to grind out a solid win over a scrappy Colorado team that is just a few plays here and there from being 5-3 (and 3-2 in conference play) - let's call it Washington 31, Colorado 20
Colorado will score some points, but I expect Washington will handily win the turnover battle (plus-three or so, I'm thinking) en route to a comfortable but not dominant victory. Washington 34, Colorado 20
I've endured the pain of rewatching the Oregon and Cal games the last week, fresh after watching the ASU game. I was looking for signs of progress - in particular on offense. As I've noted in some comment threads, I've noticed some things that both look better and bode well for a possible "coming-together" (let's not call it a breakout") of the Husky O.
I'm encouraged by how well the Husky OLine has improved in pass protection the past few weeks. The ASU game wasn't a great measuring stick because of how little UW passed. But, in clear passing downs, ASU blitzes (about half the time) were handled correctly (though there were a few where the RB got beat - ironically Shaq). Each of Troy's sacks were on the QB. Beyond that, I feel run blocking has improved each of the past few weeks. Finally, I feel like that Cyler seems to better know what is supposed to be happening with the offense, even if the execution isn't there. This one is hard to describe, but his eyes seem to be going to the right places and, importantly, he seemed to be doing a lot of coaching on the field at Oregon. He may have the greatest grasp of the offense of anybody on the field.
I can't help but to sense that UW's offense is about to click up to the next level. It will still be choppy, but it will be choppy with a few explosive plays and a couple of sustained drives in Boulder. Coupled with a D that I think will overwhelm Colorado's OLine, I'm sensing a big win. UW 45, Col 14
This should be a game for the offense to get healthy - Colorado's defense isn't really good at anything. The Huskies should be able to run the ball, whether it be with Thompson, Cooper, or Miles if Washington and Coleman are still banged up, and they should be able to throw just about any of the passes they want. The interesting thing to watch is what they actually choose to do. Do they keep Thompson at running back, which would probably signify a full-time position change for him? Is there more consistent commitment to moving the ball on the ground? Or does the team use this game to create offense by throwing the ball (as it largely did against Cal early on)?
My guess, or maybe it's just my hope, is that the Huskies come out running the ball Saturday, and keep running it, and then run it some more, followed by a little bit of the ground game. And to keep Colorado off-balance and guessing, they mix in a run or two so the offense isn't too predictable. And if that works, it should certainly open up the run game. This team needs an identity. Be a team that runs the ball effectively. It's where just about every guy on the offensive line has had the most success in his career. But, if for some reason, this game plan doesn't work early on against the Buffs, I'd go ahead and run the ball.
Defensively, the Huskies should handle business. Colorado can throw the ball, but the Dawgs should have at least a couple of chances to pick one off. And really, it seems like forever since this team has scored a defensive touchdown. This would be a good week to get one. I expect the line to get pressure pretty consistently. Colorado will score some points, but I don't think they can get near enough. Dawgs 31, Buffs 17