The best unit on the field should be the Washington defense, despite giving up over 200 yards rushing in five of the last six games, and is facing a Colorado team that is finally finding some form offensively. The Buffaloes have made tangible strides on offense the past few games, but still lack consistent weapons outside. Few teams have had success against Washington through the air, and Colorado already doesn’t attempt many passes to begin with. I expect Colorado to lean on the resurgent RB Jarek Broussard who has totaled over 100 yards in each of last two games. Washington’s front seven has worn down late in games and Colorado will look to exploit this.
With bowl contention on the line, Washington has more to play for and has started to show signs of life offensively. They also have an overall talent edge. If they can somehow find a way to slow down Colorado’s run game, and avoid turnovers, they should come away with a victory. At this point in the season, neither of those are a given. The game is also on the road, on a grass field. I anticipate Washington to start fast and build a lead, but Colorado’s patient offense and inevitable mistakes by UW will tilt things back in Colorado’s favor.
Washington- 20, Colorado- 23
Straight Up Record: 8-2, Against the Spread Record: 4-6
As tumultuous as UW’s season has been, it’s easy to forget that the games have followed a predictable script. The Husky pass defense has been very good, even great at times. But the run defense has generally worn down and the Dawgs have lost the games where opposing teams are able to sustain long drives on the ground throughout the second half. Colorado will be an interesting test case because they strongly prefer to run the ball, but their offense has only been effective in the games where they have shown some ability to pass. They’ve shown signs of life in four of their last five conference games, scoring 30 ppg with an acceptable 6.1 Y/A passing. Contrast that with their other five games against FBS teams, where they scored a total of 37 points on a very poor 4.6 Y/A. That split is reassuring for UW because the pass defense shouldn’t be a problem. Colorado will run the ball a lot and might get some yardage, but they haven’t scored much when they haven’t been able to pass.
There are more questions on the Husky offensive side of the ball because we don’t even know how the QB snaps will break down. It appears that Dylan Morris will continue to get most of the workload, but Patrick O’Brien might see action with Sam Huard preserving his redshirt eligibility. Morris’s confidence seems to be shot because his passes get more and more errant as he gets off script or must move around in the pocket. UW’s saving grace might be that Colorado’s rush defense is bad on the level of Stanford’s, which was the conference opponent who made UW’s offense look most functional. If Cam Davis can take pressure off Morris to get close to 30 points, that should be enough to take care of business. Still, that’s a lot to ask of a player who has been in and out of favor through the year. It would be nice to have a healthy Sean McGrew or Richard Newton for this game. Without them, I think it will come down to the final possession.
Washington- 24, Colorado- 20
Straight Up Record: 4-6, Against the Spread Record: 4-6
This is a winnable game. Washington is favored in Vegas so that’s not exactly a breaking news statement. But it just feels weird to think that this Huskies team is favored on the road against a team that has even the faintest bit of a pulse at the moment. This will be the first game since the players know for a fact that Jimmy Lake is never coming back as their head coach. It has surely been a turbulent week for them but the coaching staff has been the same one for the last week and a half which hopefully adds slightly more stability than there was the previous week.
There are still plenty of unknowns about Washington at the moment though. If Sam Huard is going to keep his redshirt then we likely see Dylan Morris trotted back out at the quarterback position to the pleasure of just about no one. Colorado’s defense isn’t great but the one thing they can do pretty well is defend against the pass (44th in EPA per opp. pass play). If Morris or Huard can just take care of the ball and do basic game manager things without putting the defense in a massive hole then it would be a big first step considering the last few weeks.
At this point the pass/run splits are just all-time insane for the Husky defense. Washington is #2 nationally in EPA per opp. pass play and #124 in EPA per opp. run play. Every time an opposing team chooses to pass the ball instead of run the ball their expected points added drops by half a point. Colorado RB Jarek Broussard won offensive player of the year in the conference last season but hasn’t quite been the same guy in 2021. His yards per carry is down from 5.7 to 4.8 and after carrying the rock 25+ times in 5 of Colorado’s 6 games last year he’s met that mark only once. The last time Broussard scored a TD was in week 2 against Texas A&M. Still, Broussard has shown if the game is close enough that Colorado can keep feeding him that he wears a defense down and expect that to be the Buff’s strategy tomorrow.
Against semi-competent teams (i.e not Arkansas State), Washington has been defined by their inability to open up big leads and yet have their defense keep it just close enough to be in the game. All of the Huskies’ games save for also the loss at Michigan have been within 10 points. Meanwhile, 8 of Colorado’s 10 games have been decided by 22+ points; 6 of those losses. The Buffs have only played one close conference game which was an overtime win against Oregon State. I’m more inclined to believe that Washington’s habit of close games is more likely to win out than Colorado’s mostly because even if UW gets out to an early 14 point lead, teams have shown there’s always enough time left to keep running the ball against this defense.
Washington is 4-0 this season against teams ranked worse than they are in SP+ (69th at the moment which is not nice) including 2 of those coming on the road. Colorado is 102nd. Despite everything going on I’m going to hope UW has enough pride left in the tank to not roll over on the road and that would be enough to pull out a win.
Washington- 24, Colorado- 16
THE FINAL TALLY
Straight Up: Washington- 2, Colorado- 1
Against the Spread (UW -7): Washington- 1, Colorado- 2
Average Score: Washington: 22.8, Colorado- 19.8