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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

October 12, 2007 at 11:30 AM

The pick. …

Some have accused me at times of overstating the importance of various games the Huskies have played.
Obviously, every game is a must-win in its own way. Just as obviously, only certain games are really and truly “must-wins” in terms of meeting certain goals — the game that clinches a bowl game, for instance.
So maybe I’m about to fall victim to again over-emphasizing another game. But something just tells me that this game may be the most critical UW plays this season.
The Huskies have to get to seven wins to get to a bowl game this year, and if they fall to 2-4, that’s obviously going to be really hard to do (they’d have to win five of the last six to get to seven wins without beating ASU).
There are also the intangible advantages UW has tonight — specifically, a bye week giving some extra time to prepare and which also allowed the Huskies to get healthy. UW may not be as healthy again for any other game this season as it will be tomorrow night against Arizona State.
The bye week also, theoretically, allowed for the Huskies to work on some of the glaring problems of the first five games, and to retool the game plan so as to minimize the things that have caused some struggles. (Though UW’s brief history in byes under Tyrone Willingham isn’t great. The Huskies were walloped at Oregon 45-21 in 2005 in the only other in-season bye they’ve had under Willingham, which came at the exact same point in the season, week six, following a close loss at UCLA).
I’m not one that puts much stock in “bulletin board” material, but there are also the comments of ASU cornerback Justin Tryon. I’ve always agreed with the coaches who say the emotion from that kind of stuff lasts for only a few plays. But maybe for this one week, that’s something else UW can use to get amped up.
So there’s a lot pointing in the direction of figuring that if UW is ever going to pull a big upset to get the turnaround of the program truly started, this is it.
And I think given all that, it’s a loss that would be particularly disappointing to the players, who I think really need to get a win to keep believing, to keep the “buy-in” as strong as it has been. Another loss might begin to cause some doubting, another reason to think the Huskies will be particularly motivated to win tomorrow.
But when I break this game down, the reality to me is that ASU is simply better and should win if all goes to form — though last week taught us that form often doesn’t happen.
Still, when I did the position-by-position breakdown for this game, here’s what I came up with:
QB: Even — The two QBs are so different, and Jake Locker is asked to do more for UW. But Rudy Carpenter is having a solid season for the Sun Devils.
RB: ASU — No doubting that right now, Ryan Torain is better than anyone UW has.
WR: ASU — This was close and I was leaning toward giving UW the edge here until I heard Husky coaches talk about how ASU had the best group of receivers they will have seen to date. Maybe that’s just coach speak, but it caused me to look at it again and I think in terms of overall production, ASU is simply a little deeper here.
OL: ASU — ASU has five senior starters including center Mike Pollak, a potential high-round pick.
DL: Washington — This was close, especially given UW’s sudden struggles here. But ASU has had some injuries in this department and I’m thinking the likes of Greyson Gunheim are due for a rebound.
LB: ASU — Another close call, but ASU’s Robert James so far has been one of the best LBs in the conference.
DB: ASU — The Sun Devils have already returned three picks for touchdowns and have 11 overall (UW has six). Pass defense numbers I know can be deceiving (bad teams against the run always look good against the best in terms of numbers since why bother passing if you can run) but they all favor ASU.
ST: ASU — Especially in the field goal kicking game, this isn’t close as ASU’s Thomas Weber is 11-11.
This isn’t to say UW has no shot — we’ve learned this season that every team has a shot. The Huskies can win by getting off to a fast start, taking care of the ball, finding a semblance of non-Locker running game, throwing effeciently, getting a few sacks, and holding off the second-half charge that has come all too often for UW opponents.
Pressuring Carpenter I think is especially critical and something ASU opponents have had success with this season. He’s been sacked 22 times, seven last week by the Cougs. But UW DC Kent Baer seemed to hint that UW won’t pressure as much, saying that’s harder to do on the road — indeed, 13 of Carpenter’s sacks have come in two road games as ASU has donen a better job protecting him at home, allowing only nine in four home games.
I think the Huskies will do some good things and stay in the game all the way and will have a chance to win. And who knows, maybe that will be enough for them to pull it out?
But I add it up and see ASU 31, UW 24.
I’m now off to Tempe, so I might not have anything more for quite a while.

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