The ultimate shape of the season is still to be determined, but we know now that it likely won't include a win over a ranked team and it will represent a step back in conference record and in overall losses. Still in play is a bowl game and a chance at 9 wins, as is the possibility of a losing record at 6-7. While the former would be a disappointment for some Husky fans, it would be enough of a success to keep recruiting momentum going and end the season on a positive note. The latter would obviously be regarded as a serious step back by all.
First up is Senior Night - the last game of the year in Husky Stadium. The opponent? Oregon State, a team also fighting for a chance at a bowl game, and a group looking for some revenge after being humiliated at home last year as the Huskies literally ran all over them to the tune of a Beaver opponent record 69 points. And a team coming in confident after a big upset last week at home over a #6 ranked Arizona State team. However, it's also a team that has struggled overall on the season and enters this game missing their leading rusher in Terron Ward.
On offense, the mission is clear - run the ball. Thankfully Dwayne Washington busted out with a big game last week to show there's another explosive RB on the roster other than Shaq Thompson. He should get first crack in the RB rotation, and he faces a defense that has had their issues vs. the rush, ranking 122nd in S&P in rush defense. Also important will be building off the success the Huskies had in getting Kasen Williams involved in the passing game and continuing to look for Josh Perkins and the other TEs down the middle. Washington was terrific on 3rd downs last week vs. Arizona (13 of 22) after struggling in that regard most of the year.
On defense the mission is just as clear - set Hau'oli Kikaha, Danny Shelton, Andrew Hudson and Evan Hudson loose to acquaint Beaver QB Sean Mannion with the Husky field turf. Repeatedly, and with some haste. Oregon State has not done well in keeping him upright (3.0 sacks/game allowed, 111th nationally), and the Huskies have thrived (3.64 sacks/game, 3rd nationally). The Beavers will likely try to temper the Husky pass rush by establishing a run game of their own, leaning on Storm Woods to carry the load. If Washington struggles to contain Woods, it could be a long night defensively.
Both teams will be playing with motivation in this one - both are looking to secure bowl eligibility (Oregon State's only other chance will be next week against the Ducks, so...), the Beavers are looking to gain revenge for being humiliated last year, the Huskies are looking to erase the bad taste of blowing a game last weekend they should have won, and it's Senior Night for guys like Kikaha, Shelton, the Hudson boys, John Timu, Micah Hatchie, Mike Criste, James Atoe, Colin Tanigawa, Kasen, and many more. After the emotions settle down, I expect the Huskies to leverage the match-up advantages they hold and get a satisfying win to put them back on the winning track: Washington 34, Oregon State 24
Washington is going to win this one.
Correction. Washington MUST win this one.
Forget all of the discussion about bowl eligibility and selection. The fickle Washington fan base has started to turn on this staff and, to a lesser extent, some of their players. Despite showing signs of a dominating defense for most of the season and a rising offense the past few weeks, Husky fans are one ill-timed three and out or bad-snap-Cyler-fumble away from losing their minds. In the bad way. A win is the only cure for the madness that has seized Husky Nation.
Fortunately, the Huskies have a good matchup tomorrow. The Beavers feature a pro style attack with a rather immobile QB and a rushing attack that lacks the kind of bruiser that traditionally challenges our line backing corps. Defensively, they lack the size on the back end that some other teams have featured in frustrating our QB and his young receivers. This matches well against what the Huskies do (and don't do) well in each phase.
While the Beavers are riding high following their big upset over ASU and are starting to see some growth in areas such as their receiving corps, they are catching the Huskies at the wrong time. I see the Huskies posting a big win in what will be the last appearance in Husky Stadium for a number of players who will soon bear the label of "Husky Legend. Danny, Hau'oli, Shaq, Johnny, Kasen, Andrew, Micah, Ben, Panda and the Boys 31, OSU 20
Brad and I play racquetball every Wednesday, best two out of three. It's fair to say that any one game is about a 50/50 proposition, with one exception: the third game after one of us has already won two. In that case, the one who lost the first two is much more likely to win the third game. Sweeps are less likely than randomness would suggest. Why is that?
Behavioral economists have identified a hitch in how we make decisions. We generally fear losses more than we look forward to gains. This shows up in various ways. The endowment effect, wherein we are unwilling to sell a thing we already own even for a price higher than we would have paid to buy it. Professional golfers make a putt more often to save par than they make the same put for birdie. We buy too much insurance. And we win the third game in a best of three racquetball match after losing the first two. This is all formalized as Prospect Theory .
What does this have to do with the Oregon State game? Let's compare motivations. Oregon State is play for bowl eligibility. The Huskies are playing to avoid a bad loss. In short, the Huskies are motivated by fear -- which is a better motivator than opportunity.
The Dawgs win. Look for Cyler Miles to take a knee in every drive stating after the third quarter.
Congrats to the Beavers on a big win over Arizona State last weekend, but I don't think it means all that much coming in to Saturday. Likewise, I don't think last year's big win by the Huskies in Corvallis will have any sort of major impact after the first couple of minutes of the game. The Huskies are the better all-around team, and if they can match the effort and intensity they showed at Arizona, they'll beat the Beavers tomorrow night.
Besides the great performance of Dwayne Washington running the ball and a much more complete effort throwing it from Cyler Miles, the Huskies also had a very good game plan against the Wildcats. Gone were the bubble screens that have been almost entirely ineffective. In their place was a well-designed out route to a receiver coming in motion across the formation to fill the void on what became the trips side when the other two receivers ran their defenders out of the play. A much easier throw for Miles to make, and no blocking required. The designed runs for Miles minimized his opportunity to dance in the backfield, instead calling for him to simply, quickly, get straight up the field. Add to that significantly better execution from the offensive line, and all of the sudden the Huskies look at have a legitimately mediocre offense. How much of that was due to the way the coaches thought they could attack Arizona's 3-3-5 defense and how much was evolution and improvement will be seen the next two weeks. I expect Jonathon Smith will have something (hint: Dwayne Washington) special in mind for his alma mater.
Defensively, the Huskies should continue to be able to get pressure with a basic 3 man rush against Sean Mannion and the Beavers offensive line. After 11 games, Budda Baker and Sidney Jones aren't true freshmen anymore; you can see both of them play with significantly more confidence. Mannion presents a much tougher test than did Anu Solomon, but I find myself with a lot less apprehension about the youth in the secondary than I did even a few games ago.
The Huskies run the ball well, make a few plays through the passing game, and the defensive front makes life uncomfortable for Mannion and the Beaver offense all night. Huskies win, 34-23.
To put it plainly, there's no reason for Washington to squander this game away. Of course, I said the same thing with 1:30 left to play last week, so stranger things have happened.
On offense, the Dawgs seemed to finally get some good things going last week by feeding the rock to Dwayne Washington and Kasen Williams. What's more, the Beavers rank seventh in the conference in sacks (24) and tackles for loss (65), so it's not as if the Washington offensive line will be facing off against a group of world-beaters. After posting arguably their best performance of the season, it's reasonable to think that the Huskies will have a good chance to continue executing at a high level.
I've already spoken about how the defense can limit the Beavers' chances of making big plays this game, but it bears repeating that this game seems tailor-made to the strengths of Hau'oli Kikaha and Danny Shelton. Their ability to make Sean Mannion uncomfortable will be paramount to assisting a Washington pass defense that, while it shows potential, is still likely the weakest unit on the defense. The linebackers will also need to be stout against a Beaver rushing attack led by Terron Ward and Storm Woods, who have earned 14 touchdowns on 5.82 yards per carry.
Washington played their best game of 2013 against Oregon State with many of the same players that will take the field Saturday. While I don't expect the Huskies to blow the Beavers out of the water like they did last year in Corvallis, I think a 14- or 17-point Washington victory sounds appropriate. Washington 34, Oregon State 20.