It’s funny how just one game gives you so much more context and confidence on what to expect. Unlike in years past where by this point I would have studied the opponent’s defense for the defensive preview, I’m not doing that this year and didn’t pay too much (read: any) attention to Portland State last week, so just have to go on what we know of Washington’s offense plus adjusted for the talent disparity.
We already knew said talent disparity is significant, but now having seen Washington’s offense in action, it’s reasonable to expect the Dawgs to do what they should always do to an FCS team (*cries in Montana*). The main question I’ll be looking to answer is how much do we have to worry about the mediocre tackling from the defense that we saw last week? I.e. were those mostly the case of first week jitters plus a Wilson-esque slippery quarterback, or is it something we’ll have to be concerned about this whole season? My guess is it’s somewhere between the two but I both hope and expect we’ll see better against Portland State.
Meanwhile, the offense should have an even better showing than last week. So that’s fun.
Washington- 49, Portland State- 17
I read somewhere this week — someone quoted someone else saying a team improves the most between the first and second games. I’d give credit if I remembered where I saw it. But suffice to say, I think this Husky team takes another step forward this weekend.
It just shows what high expectations we have, that 500+ yards of offense and a comfortable win last Saturday still generated concern among the Husky faithful. I’m not saying it’s wrong. We just expect great football. And why not? It’s our pedigree.
I reckoned the Dawgs had played Portland State 3 or 4 times total over the years, but GoHuskies.com educated me that there’ve been exactly two contests - both Washington wins. Largest margin of victory: 39 points (2012). Smallest margin of victory: 38 points (2016). This accounts for all two games.
Portland State hasn’t had a winning record since 2015 and went 5 - 6 last year, with the five teams they beat having a combined record of 14-40. And regarding PSU’s win last week that made some sit up and take notice — an FCS team almost beating a Mountain West team — their opponent San Jose State went 5 - 7 last year. Of those, SJSU’s only victory of >7 points was at home against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds.
I get it, all this data comes from last year. But this is PSU head coach Bruce Barnum’s 8th year as head honcho and 13th total with the
Pilots Vikings. Portland State may be improved in 2022 when all is said and done, but the result on Saturday will fall somewhere close to the previous Huskies/ Pilots Vikings matchups.
I predict UW plays as well or better than last week in most respects, but worse in perhaps turnovers. Or sacks allowed. I think this game feels decided even earlier than last week’s. I think one of Dylan Morris OR Sam Huard enters the game earlier than in the Kent St. game, and I’m calling an interception OR fumble recovery touchdown for the Dawgs.
Washington- 51, Portland State- 22
For all the great things Michael Penix did against Kent State in week one, the one that stood out most to me was how consistently he made exactly the right decision at the right time. He called out the right blitz protections against a defense that brought pressure from a wide variety of angles. He exhibited immediate chemistry with his receivers and knew where they would be on the field and where they would want passes in his first game on the team. When needed, he picked exactly the right time to take off out of the pocket. Portland State has an undersized but creative defense. It will be another good test for Penix’s game management because he will have to identify non-standard pressures and coverages. In his favor, the Viking defensive front will likely offer less resistance than what the Dawgs got from the Golden Flashes. That should mean more of a push up front to free up Wayne Taulapapa and Will Nixon for steady gains. My money will be on Penix playing slightly less perfectly, but the running game picking up some of the slack.
Defensively, the key challenges in this matchup look somewhat like they did a week ago. QB Dante Chachere kept PSU in the game late against San Jose State last week. He’s a true dual threat; he threw for 270 yards and ran for 83 in his first start for the Vikings. Collin Schlee’s scrambling was one of Kent State’s biggest weapons against the Dawgs last week due to some broken pockets and poor tackling on the back end. I will also be watching to see if the coverage can clean up some one-on-one mistakes or if Beau Kelly can make the sorts of big plays that Dante Cephus did a week ago. Ultimately, UW’s defense made some very visible mistakes in their first game in a new system against a pretty good G5 offense last week. This week, they face a lesser opponent with a bit more experience. The results should be better, even if they turnovers don’t come as easily.
Washington- 49, Portland State- 14
The Huskies got over the ghosts of the past last week by winning their season opener at home against a 3+ TD underdog. Now they have to prove they can do it again and avenge the loss to a Big Sky opponent from last year.
While this Portland State team isn’t nearly as dangerous as 2021 Montana they still have shown they can be more than frisky. They came close to winning at San Jose State last week and shouldn’t be viewed as a complete pushover. Washington last week struggled with Collin Schlee’s mobility and size combination as he repeatedly evaded sacks and ran for first downs or threw it on the run. Enter Portland State QB Dante Chachere who is also a dual threat 6’3 gunslinger that debuted with 270 yards passing and 70 yards rushing in week 1. Chuck Morrell and William Inge better have the defense ready to better contain and corral in the backfield this time around. Dom Hampton will need a big game against 5’9 star slot receiver Beau Kelly.
The real question is can Portland State offer any more opposition to this Husky offense than Kent State did? The Vikings are incredibly undersized on the interior and there’s really something wrong if the Huskies can’t consistently pick up 4, 5, or 6 yards running the ball on early downs. We may once again see Washington run the ball early and if Portland State commits extra resources to the box then pick them apart in the passing game.
Given what we saw against Kent State there’s no reason that this should be in doubt late in the game even if Portland State is scrappy enough to keep it respectable headed into halftime.
Washington- 42, Portland State- 16
THE FINAL TALLY
Against the Spread (UW -27.5*): Washington- 3, Portland State- 1
Straight Up: Washington- 4, Portland State- 0
Average Score: Washington- 47.5, Portland State- 17.0