You can be forgiven if you don't know a whole lot about FCS Sacramento State. To help out, Jesse provided a look at the Hornet offense on Tuesday while Jeff profiled the players to watch on their defense on Wednesday. And while many won't care who's on their team - they're a Big Sky team after all and the Huskies should roll - here's a couple of reminders of why the Dawgs had better come out with the proper mindset. So with all of that in mind, how do we see this game playing out?
When asked about Sacramento State this week, HC Chris Petersen emphasized that this game is about the Huskies. While that's usually taken as a coaching cliché, in this case it's absolutely true. If the Huskies take care of their own business and do the things they are capable of doing, there shouldn't be any question about the outcome.
That's not to say that Washington is going to come out of the gates on fire and bury the Hornets in the first half. Slow starts have been an issue for this program - we saw it last year against a physically over-matched Georgia State where the Huskies sleep-walked through the first half; we saw it in the Cactus Bowl where they dug themselves a hole in the first half too deep to climb out of, and we saw it last Friday against Boise State.
The guess here is that the coaching staff emphasizes the run-game and eases in more play-action and shots downfield. I think the defense will continue to be stout and other than a coverage breakdown or the back-ups yielding ground, Sacramento State will find the sledding tough and points hard to come by. But the offense might take a while to click, and the game may be closer than Husky fans are hoping to see. Washington 34, Sacramento State 13
If a loss can be considered a win, I think the Boise State game is a prime example. You have to be impressed with how the defense and special teams played in the second half against the Broncos. We already know the offense is a work in progress with Jake Browning and we hope to expect a little more latitude in the longitude (i.e. more plays throwing downfield) this game. We should see the running game making its 2015 debut this week as well. I predict another big day for special teams which will include either a punt or kick return for a TD. Huskies 35 Sacramento State 10
I just have a feeling that this will be one of those flip flop games where the Husky offense gets things rolling (but not too much) against a softer defense but suddenly the Husky defense struggles a bit with what should be a softer offense. The Huskies won't drop 60 points or anything, but they will consistently score and the defense will tighten up in the second half to give the Huskies a comfortable (but not too comfortable) win. Washington 38 Sacramento State 17
Sacramento State head coach Jody Sears typically boasts a strong defensive unit, and the Hornets offense looked fantastic in their week one blow out of Eastern Oregon. Can the Hornets upset the Huskies at home Saturday? Not likely.
The Sacramento State defense is a young unit this season, as is the Huskies offense. Freshman Jake Browning came into his own in the second half of the Huskies 16-13 loss to Boise State last week, despite struggles in the final two minutes. Expect Browning and the offense to get started earlier this week, and the defensive unit to shutdown the Hornets seemingly high octane offense. Huskies avoid the upset in the home opener, 27-17 Dawgs.
The Huskies offense struggles to move the ball on their first series, causing our game thread to instantly go into panic mode. However, our defense responds with a quick three and out, and the offense starts to get rolling. The Huskies are up 21-7 at half time, and don't look back. Browning compiles a nice stat line, Dwayne Washington rebounds well from his rough outing last week, and KJ Carta-Samuels gets some work in in the fourth quarter. Final score: Washington 38 Sacramento State 10.
After engineering a measly 29 yards on 22 carries against Boise State, a matchup against FCS Sacramento State is just what the doctor ordered for Dwayne Washington and the offensive line. In that regard, UW fans should hope to see a repeat of the 2012 team. That year, Bishop Sankey earned a paltry 16 yards on eight carries against LSU in the second game of the year; the following week, Sankey broke out against FCS Portland State, which was the first of seven games in which he rang up 100-yard performances in the season's remaining 11 games. While I don't believe that Washington has the potential to reach the bar Sankey set during his time at UW, I do think that a solid performance against an inferior foe could be just the shot in the arm that the running game needs to get going for the rest of the season.
Behind center, this will be a big opportunity for Jake Browning to show his continued improvement. Despite a few freshman mistakes (his second sack and early spike come to mind), I was impressed by the poise and maturity he displayed in his debut against Boise State, and further opportunities to partake in life-fire reps and develop chemistry with his fellow offensive players are invaluable this early in his career. In particular, I think we'll see a real emphasis on further involving the tight ends and taking some deep shots down the field, after both of those aspects played little part in last week's contest.
Factor in a defensive performance based on the final 40 minutes of the season's opening game, and there should be little drama to behold Saturday morning on Montlake. Washington 45, Sacramento State 13.