Something’s gotta give right? Arkansas State has a horrible defense, UW has a horrible offense. Arkansas State has one the best passing attacks in the game, UW has one of the best secondaries (or at least CB duos). They rely on an unconventional two quarterback system but both James Blackman and Layne Hatcher have thrived in this offense. Washington has been lights out in pass defense but have barely been challenged. Saturday should change that. Hopefully Arkansas State’s aggressiveness leads to the first turnovers of the season for the defense.
Offensively Washington is hoping for an uptick in production against a weak Red Wolve’s defense, which has been particularly poor against the run. But, if we see more predictable and unimaginative play calling, there is no reason to think this offense can’t be shut down by Arkansas State like it was against Montana. I have to imagine that John Donovan and Jimmy Lake are salivating looking at Arkansas State’s rush defense and will double down on running the ball. That does not fill me with confidence and I hope that instead we see a concerted effort to get the ball downfield to Washington’s best players on offense right now - Terrell Bynum and Cade Otton. Crossing my fingers Rome Odunze will be back soon!
If Washington wins, it’s because the secondary shouldered most of the load. Arkansas State will come out throwing like they always do, and the DBs need to make plays and cause quick 3 and outs. As they keep gambling, it will lead to turnovers and short fields for the UW offense, which needs all the help it can get.
Please don’t lose to a Butch Jones coached Sun Belt team.
Washington- 24, Arkansas State- 14
This game against Arkansas State is a get well game. The Husky offensive coaches and players I’m sure have been looking inward and the hope is that the offense opens more. With rain in the forecast I believe the Huskies will still run the ball a ton but they will also try to get some more play action plays going. On the defensive side of the ball the Huskies should be able match up well with a team that likes to throw the ball. The run defense will still get gashed on some plays but after getting manhandled by Michigan they should be able to start winning some one on one battles in the trenches.
Washington- 35, Arkansas State- 20
When a team underperforms against the spread as severely as UW has over the first two weeks, Vegas has to respond to get action on both sides of the bet. As such, most computer models predict the Huskies to be 18-20 points better than the Red Wolves even though the spread is a few points lower. Of course, those same models predict that that Washington will score 35-40 points, and it’s hard to visualize this offense putting on that performance against anyone, even an opponent that gave up 55 points to Memphis last week.
If there’s a defense that Washington can dominate right now, this should be it. Arkansas State has give up over 1000 yards (including 700 in the air) through two games. If UW is willing to open up the playbook and throw the ball 35+ times, there is a pathway to a much better output. With Terrell Bynum back in the fold, there’s no need to run the ball straight into unblocked defensive linemen 20 times in the first half.
On the other side of the ball, the ASU offense is one that UW’s defense is built to stop. They threw the ball 66 times last week. With UW’s excellent cornerbacks, that’s a better match-up than one that wants to bludgeon an underperforming front. I’m still not optimistic about the offense, and I think ASU has enough firepower to score some points, but I feel good enough to predict some baby steps for UW going into conference season.
Washington- 30, Arkansas State- 21
On the bright side, the Huskies are in (a five-way tie for) 2nd place in the Pac-12 North, and are only 1/2 game out of first place. Okay! Further, Michigan and Montana combined for a paltry 19/38 for 149 yards passing, and zero touchdowns. Not bad! Okay, okay... Neither the Grizzlies or Wolverines threw the ball much, and when they did a lot of throws were off the mark.
Arkansas State throws the ball so much that they actually have TWO quarterbacks. Going back to 2014, even when we’ve had good defenses at Montlake, we’ve had a mostly invisible pass rush that’s been mitigated by a top-10 secondary. I’m concerned that inconsistencies in our defense - that begin appearing in 2019 - mean we can no longer compensate for a weak pass rush as we once did.
Arkansas State ran over 100 plays last week, with 66 pass attempts. With the sheer volume of passes to defend, will the Husky defense wear down in the second half and allow some big plays? Perhaps from blown coverage or missed tackles? Checking the box score, Memphis didn’t record a single sack against Arkansas State’s two QBs. Maybe this is due to quick throws or a poor Memphis defense - or maybe the Red Wolves block well in pass protection. What can the Husky pass rush muster? Will our D be susceptible to the odd, gashing run while looking to stop the pass?
We should be able to have our way with a Red Wolves defense that gave up 55 points to Memphis. But on the other hand, UW has scored 17 total points this season and have made it very easy for opponents to thwart the run game. Memphis did throw for 417 yards and 5 TDs against the Red Wolves, and Central Arkansas threw for 296 yards and 3 TDs the previous week. We should be able to throw all over these guys. But will John Donovan call passing plays early against a defense that may be his only chance this season to at least make it look like his running scheme can be effective?
This offense is so anemic that there is no room for error in any phase of the game — gut-punch fake punts, stupid penalties, inside runs on 4th and 4... We might be able to get away with that stuff against Arkansas State, but not against Cal next week or for the rest of the season.
All the same, there’s just no way I can predict a loss in this one.
Washington- 34, Arkansas State- 22
If you look at this game truly objectively then there’s no way the Huskies should come close to losing. And yet here we are with our John Donovan-induced PTSD.
Bill Connelly noted on Twitter yesterday that FCS teams have overperformed against FBS teams this season by about 9 points over what you would normally expect. If that trend continued then Montana would be 25th overall in his combined FBS/FCS rankings (and would be a top-60 team even without the adjustment). Michigan is currently 6th in SP+. Arkansas State is 91st with the 116th ranked defense. If there’s any time that the Husky offense can overcome its inherent limitations it would be this week.
This game will likely be decided by who is able to play to their strengths. Arkansas State wants to throw the ball all over the field and play as fast as humanly possible. That plays into the teeth of Washington’s defense and if Trent McDuffie, Kyler Gordon, and Bookie Radley-Hiles play like they did against Michigan then there’s a good chance the Red Wolves have a lot of very quick 3 and outs to give extra chances for the offense. However, if Washington’s offense continues to struggle and can’t sustain drives then it means the defense is going to quickly get gassed by the pace of the game and become susceptible to big plays even with the better athletes.
And on top of everything else there’s a chance this game is going to be played in extremely heavy rain with a chance of thunderstorms to interrupt the action. I’m going to call the best of all possible worlds. The Huskies escape with a victory but the offense still holds the team back and the team has a new interim offensive coordinator next week.
Washington- 24, Arkansas State- 23
THE FINAL TALLY
Straight Up: Washington- 5, Arkansas State- 0
Against the Spread (UW -17): Washington- 0, Arkansas State- 5
Average Score: Washington- 29.4, Arkansas State- 20.0