Hello, eight days.
We discussed yesterday the most difficult defenses that UW’s offense will likely see in 2017. It makes sense to look at that particular issue given how clearly different UW’s otherwise explosive offense performed against the most difficult defenses on its schedule.
I’d like to debate today the topic of the most difficult offense that UW’s defense will face. This conversation comes from a bit of a different perspective. UW’s defense in 2016, in fact, saw little to no dropoff from their baseline when they faced their most challenging offensive opponents.
The best offense that they faced per S&P+ (and you are going to howl when you see it) was California, a team that UW held to under 5 yards per play against. One of the worst offenses they played - Idaho - was one of only three teams (the others being USC and Cal) to post both 100 yards rushing and 200 yards passing against them. But, even still, they averaged just 4.2 yards per play. Even #1 Alabama could only muster 5.1 yards per play - their second worst showing of the whole year (LSU was 4.6 yards per play). Interestingly enough, Arizona was the only team to put up more than 6 yards per play against UW in any game.
That kind of consistency is why UW was ranked as one of the best defenses of the nation and why their spider chart looks like this:
My goodness, look at those Explosiveness ratings.
But this season is a new one. With it comes a new UW defense, one that features a new pair of starting corners, a new DL rotation and a different kind of player manning the BUCK position. Projecting who might be this D’s toughest test is an intriguing exercise given that you must project this new defense’s likely strengths and weaknesses in order to do it.
Option 1- Colorado
I know that not everyone is buying what is going on in Colorado. But I am. This team has really come together this fall with answers to every one of the questions that people were asking. Steven Montez, frankly, looks like an upgrade over Sefo Liufau as a playmaker, even if he might be prone to taking too many risks. The offensive line is experienced AND two deep. The receiver rotation of Bryce Bobo, Shay Fields, Jay McIntyre and Devin Ross is probably the best receiving foursome in the PAC. Oh, and this guy named Phillip Lindsay only rushed for 1200+ yards while catching another 500 or so a year ago.
So, yeah, these guys ought to be pretty good.
Option 2 – Washington State
The Cougs are definitely reloading among their receiver ranks as they try to compensate for the losses of guys like Gabe Marks and River Cracraft. Unfortunately - and I think that the most honest of Coug fans would admit this - it is more likely the case that QB Luke Falk made good receivers out of those guys than the other way around.
In that way, it is very fair to expect less familiar names like Tavares Martin, Robert Lewis, Kyle Sweet and Dezmon Patton to step right in and pick up that passing game slack.
Layer in the variety of options that the running back trio of Jamal Morrow, James Williams and Gerard Wicks provide and you’ve got yourself a pretty difficult offense to contain.
The big challenge for WSU a year ago was generating big plays. It’s not clear to me exactly where they will go to improve that in 2017, but that it could happen can’t be discounted.
Option 3 – UCLA
UCLA is the only team that shows up on both my offensive and defensive polls. I can sense some of you out there on the interwebs cringing as a result.
Again, we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room: UCLA is loaded.
QB Josh Rosen is a legit pro prospect who has plenty of upside still remaining to cash in on. The RB situation is deep: Bolu Olorunfunmi has beaten out both 5* Sosa Jamabo and 4* Nate Starks for the starting job, but all three figure into the plans. The receiving situation returns a couple of very productive guys in Jordan Lasley (41 catches) and Darren Andrews (55 catches). Eldridge Massington - a physical beast - might yet still break out while freshman TE Jimmy Jaggers looks like the real deal while former USC transfer Caleb Wilson has been making noise in camp.
The offensive line remains a bit of a question mark but only because it underperformed so badly a year ago. Still, UCLA’s new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch is coming from the Jim Harbaugh tree and knows a thing or two about getting high level play out of the offensive line.
The Verdict – Colorado
I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve heard coming out of Colorado’s camp. Montez looks like he’s ready to bust and, along with that four-man receiver rotation, presents what might be the single greatest challenge that UW’s new secondary will face. In addition, I think that the Buffs’ offensive line is underrated and, of course, they have a classic move-the-sticks kind of back in Lindsay.
That UW faces Colorado early in the season when team health is likely to be optimal is what ultimately tipped the scales in their favor compared to runner-up UCLA.
Which scheduled opponent will present UW's defense with the greatest challenge in 2017?
This poll is closed
Washington State Cougars
nobody - UW’s defense is bad ass (or "other")