Predicting this game feels like a fool’s errand. Washington has a new coaching staff, a new QB, and new schemes on both sides of the ball. On the other side, I can’t say that I spent a lot of time watching Kent State play last year. Or any other year. Power conference teams usually use these games against non-P5 opponents as tune-ups, but with the rotten memory of Montana still festering, I’m once (very recently) bitten), twice shy.
On paper, Kent State’s ability leans heavily toward the offensive side. They are breaking in a new QB, but return plenty of accomplished skill position players. Notably, Marquez Cooper comes back after rushing for over 1,200 yards last year. A season ago, that sentence would have been terrifying for Husky fans given our run-stuffing ineptitude. With a bigger interior defensive line, safeties playing in the box, and a brawnier fifth DB, there is reason to believe that foes will have to present a balanced attack to beat us this time around. QB Collin Schlee will try to test two new starting CBs in Jordan Perryman and Mishael Powell. It might not be easy to do so since Kent State’s weakest point was it’s O-Line and they have to replace most of that sub-par unit. The EDGE rotation of Jeremiah Martin, Bralen Trice and ZTF will be essential, both in creating negative plays and in keeping things simple for a less proven secondary. Ultimately, with more focus on defensive playmaking, there is a risk of giving up a few more big plays. I expect occasional big gains for the Golden Flashes, but if that comes at the expense of multiple 15-play TD drives, it’s probably a good trade.
The real intrigue will be with UW’s offense. We all want to see the Deboer/Grubb system in Montlake and how Michael Penix performs in it. Kent State’s defense should be a fertile testing ground after giving up nearly 38 PPG last year and ranking outside the top 100 nationally in success rate against the run and pass (UW was 117th against the run, KSU was 125th against the pass and 110th against the run. Imagine UW being as bad as they were against the run and somehow worse against the pass). Without much resistance, the offense can keep it fairly straightforward. I expect lots of quick passes to the short and intermediate parts of the field. Penix will try to spread the love and get as many receivers involved as possible. The pass will open up the run and Wayne Taulapapa will pile up yards as the game goes on. It might look close through the first quarter, but the Dawgs will get enough stops to assert control by late in the first half and will be able to rotate in some depth, including Dylan Morris, by the fourth.
Washington- 38, Kent State- 21
No just kidding. But just having a competent coaching staff, this should be what Montana _should’ve_ been last year. After all, it’s not like Washington sucked turds last season because they had lesser talent. In fact, just saying that out loud is reminding me of how impressive Jimmy Lake’s tank job was. It’d be one thing to lose to Montana and that many games a season if you were... I dunno.... Syracuse... or some team that routinely has minimal raw talent available — but good lord I’m not even mad. That’s amazing.
Anyways, point being as we all know that Washington has a significant talent advantage over most teams they’ll play this year, especially over Kent State, and for the first time in two years, a coaching staff that isn’t building sand castles in left field. I’ll assume the team still has some rust to get rid of, so it’s not the crazy blowout it could be, but the end result should still be a healthy W.
Washington- 38, Kent State- 13
One year ago I predicted a comfortable Husky win to open the 2021 season - Jimmy Lake’s debut home opener*... The only thing I got right was the number of points that Montana would score that night.
Here we are one year later. UW Athletics cleaned house when they needed to, got a coach with a proven track record who is creating more excitement about this regime with each passing week, and everyone is feeling pretty good about Husky football again. Amen. And now after months of positive vibes, we get to see what it all looks like in the month of September, when box scores go into the record books.
I can tell you what the offense and defense should look like in Kalen DeBoer’s first real contest as Husky head coach. But I can’t and I won’t predict what they will look like come Saturday. I can’t predict how smoothly the offense will run or how much the Husky D will rebound from their last few years of underachieving.
But I know this. Kalen DeBoer has taken a long road to stand on the sideline as a Power 5 head coach for the first time. He’s had a lot of success on the way. I’m sure this opportunity is not lost on him.
I’d like to see our talent on offense be allowed to shine. I’d like to see a defense that will attack rather than bend in order not to break. I’d like to see a win, and I expect to. But most important, I want to see a team that plays with all the enthusiasm and passion that Coach DeBoer is reportedly infusing this team with.
*2020 has so many asterisks next to it I can’t take it seriously, and now I will speak of Jimmy Lake no more, forever
Washington- 37, Kent State- 20
I’m an informed fan but I find it hard to see how someone could have supreme confidence about the outcome of this game one way or another outside of the power of pure homerism. Kent State is a division favorite in the MAC and while that doesn’t mean they’re suddenly a CFP contender it does demonstrate that they do have things they do quite well.
The primary identity of this Golden Flashes team definitely fits their name. They like to play warp drive fast like the Chip Kelly Oregon teams of old. The second the ball is set they are looking to snap the ball. If Kent State has their way then they’ll run over 100 plays. It will be absolutely critical for the Huskies to force some 3 and outs and let their defensive linemen rest. This is also kind of a nightmare matchup for projected starting DL Ulumoo Ale who is coming back from a leg injury at 330+ pounds.
Last year Kent State loved to run the ball and it’s a good bet they will again this year and particularly this week given UW’s weaknesses from 2021. Quarterback Dustin Crum led the team with 881 rushing yards but has since graduated and will be handing the reins to fellow dual threat Collin Schlee who will be a challenge to contain for Washington.
Where Washington hopefully won’t have nearly as much trouble as in week 1 last year is scoring the ball against a Kent State defense that was horrific a season ago. They were 115th nationally in both EPA per pass and rush attempt. A new defensive coordinator will try to make improvements after bringing in 7 defensive transfers but that’s a tough ask to improve to even average from that level in a single offseason.
Against an opponent capable of scoring this quickly I don’t feel comfortable picking the Huskies to beat a spread that’s over 3 touchdowns.
Washington- 31, Kent State- 17
THE FINAL TALLY
Straight Up: Washington- 4, Kent State- 0
Against the Spread: Washington- 1, Kent State- 3
Average Score: Washington- 36.0, Kent State- 15.3