We're less than two weeks away from real football, so as an antidote to all this off-the-field dirty business going around surrounding he-said/he-said about the transfer of a
menace to society football player and the public drunkenness of a former Husky coach, let's talk some football. Namely, when will the Huskies record their first win of the 2015 season?
When things are going as expected with the Husky football program, the answer to this question is an easy one - game 1. But this is still a program in transition and trying to ascend back to the level of success Husky fans expect, and this year the first game is on the road against a consensus top-10 program, one that appears to have some extra motivation.
Option 1: @ Boise State, Game 1
You might not have realized this since it hasn't been mention eleventy-billion times before, but Chris Petersen is going to lead his new team back to his old stomping grounds in Boise. Also, have the Huskies played Boise State recently? I can't seem to recall - maybe we should play them more?
All kidding aside, this is a game that's going to get national attention given the story line. While there may be a smattering of Boise fans that claim to be happy Petersen moved on, most still hold him in very high regard for the way he took the Bronco program to new heights under his watch and put them in National Championship conversation over multiple seasons. It became an article of faith that every year some big-name programs were going to come sniffing around Boise to try to pry Petersen away, and every time he'd smile and say "no thanks". And that was true for a while, but Petersen shocked the college football world when he reached to Washington after Steve Sarkisian's departure and decided to take on a new challenge in Seattle. Combine the story of a longtime coach moving on and then facing his former team (and several former assistant coaches) just a year later on his old home turf and you've got a TV programmer's dream. Add in the elements of the inland PNW school vs. the coastal big-city school, the recently risen mid-major success story vs. the long-time power that has recently fallen on hard times and is trying to rebuild and the top-10 program vs. an unproven, young roster replacing four high level draft picks and you have a ratings bonanza waiting to happen.
But that's all hype - what about the game itself? There's a truism in football that you have to play with passion, and the assumption is that Boise State will a great deal of motivation against their old coach. But will they? There's almost always a healthy competition that goes on when friends face off against each other, and while I doubt there's much true ill-will on the side of Bronco players against Petersen - after all, how upset can they really be about the opportunity he had and the decision he made - they will certainly want to show him that the students can beat the master. However there's also a danger of getting too emotional and losing your focus, and I wonder if the team will get too hyped up in the media and fan circus that will precede this game.
Meanwhile on the Husky side you've got a team that has been hearing all off-season about all the talent and experience that's been lost to graduation and the draft, how Vegas lines have the win total over/under lines set at 4 and how the team was picked by the media to finish 4th in the Pac-12 North this year. Another truism in football is the motivation that underdogs have. While this team certainly is low on starting experience and a lot of talented players are indeed no longer with the team, plenty of talent remains, and they could very well have a gigantic chip on their collective shoulders as they head into the season. They are also in their 2nd year of adapting to a dramatically different culture under this coaching staff and both players and coaches should be more in tune with each other and more comfortable with the schemes this staff wants to run. Add in the advantage much of this staff has in knowing first-hand what many of the players on the Bronco roster are capable of - and what weaknesses they might have - and the idea of the Huskies pulling an upset on the blue turf in Albertsons Stadium doesn't seem so far-fetched.
Reasons for: Huskies may have more raw talent than Boise State; Broncos may get too worked-up for the game and lose focus; Huskies should have a major chip on their shoulders to prove themselves to doubters; Petersen and staff should have a scouting edge in this one; Broncos are replacing some key pieces at QB and RB
Reasons against: Boise State is very experienced, very well-coached and a legit top-20 program; It's a road game on National TV and the moment might be too big for an inexperienced, young Husky team; Washington is a significant underdog in this game
Option 2: Sacramento State, Game 2
Where game one is the marquee non-conference game, the "A" of the well-known "A-B-C" model of non-conference scheduling, this is the "C" game, the one you assume not just a win, but a big win that allows the coaches to empty the benches and get game reps for the 2nd and 3rd teamers.
"Now hold on..." some of you might say, "...Sacramento State may be a mid-level FCS program, but they've knocked off Oregon State and Colorado in recent years." OK, yes. But they've also been blown-out by Stanford, ASU, Cal and New Mexico State (!) in that same time-span.
With all due respect to Hornets fans, the talent disparity is sufficiently large here that even considering a relatively youthful Husky roster and not a lot of returning starting experience, this is a game that Washington should win by three touchdowns at a minimum. While Sacramento State is typically a notch (or two) above a team like Idaho State, this is still a mid-level FCS program and one that will be a huge underdog in the Vegas lines (if it's even listed at most books).
Reasons for: It's Sacramento State
Reasons against: The apocalypse?
Option 3: Utah State, Game 3
This option really isn't worth discussing, because if the Huskies can't beat Sacramento State at home in Game 2, we may as well just shut down the blog and find something else to do with our time.
@ Boise State, Game 1
Call me a homer, but I think the Huskies pull what the college football world will consider a shocker and knock off the Broncos. Both teams are breaking in new quarterbacks and will likely lean on their defenses and running games. I see the Husky defense surprising folks and playing well enough to keep this a fairly low-scoring game. While the Husky offense will no doubt have some hiccups and struggles, I also think there's enough big-play talent in guys like Dwayne Washington, Darrell Daniels, Chico McClatcher and more that they can claw out a tough, hard-fought win under the lights and the national TV cameras as Petersen notches his first "signature win" as a Husky head coach.