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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

November 30, 2007 at 2:35 PM

THE PICK ….

It’s still a little windy and rainy here, and sounds as if it may remain that way through game time. Maybe that will slow down Hawaii’s passing some, I don’t know. Colt Brennan was quoted in the paper here the other day saying that they practice in rain all the time so he didn’t think it would be a big deal at all.
What is a big deal is this game. All the talk here is about this being maybe the biggest game in Hawaii history, not so much because it’s Washington — Hawaii did play two Pac-10 games last year, if you recall, in Oregon State and Arizona State, beating the Sun Devils handily (in fact, Hawaii punted only once in the two games combined, losing to OSU 35-32 mostly due to turnovers and missed field goals. Hawaii outgained OSU in that game 504-316 and ASU 680-391).
So I think there are ample reasons to why Hawaii is favored in this game, not just the 11-0 record this year that is against an admittedly weak schedule.
When I examined the two teams, here’s how I broke it down:
QB — Hawaii. Jake Locker is a huge key for the Huskies today and it will surprise no one if he has a big game. But this is Brennan’s moment and with the home field and veteran receivers going against a suspect secondary, hard to figure that he won’t put up mammoth numbers. Locker’s not quite to that point yet.
RB — UW. Hawaii’s RBs have decent numbers considering that they aren’t used all that much — the top two average 5.8 and 6.6 yards per carry — but neither is to the level of Louis Rankin. The Huskies, however, have to really make this edge matter. Rankin has to run like he did against Cal and Stanford and not like he did against WSU, when he looked like a player who had worn down a bit (remember the hip injury he suffered against the Bears). If he’s not running well early, look for lots of Brandon Johnson.
WR — Hawaii. A no-brainer here as Hawaii’s starting receiving trio is among the most accomplished in NCAA history and has combined for 264 catches this season alone. Davone Bess, the best of the group, projects future high-round draft pick (maybe this year) and UW may just be glad he never made it to Oregon State (he signed there in 2003 before running into trouble with the law). UW can’t afford six drops like it had last week in this kind of environment.
OL — UW. A tough call as Hawaii has a fairly veteran unit that obviously is very productive. And the Huskies looked a little back-to-earth last week after the dominating performance against Cal. But I think you’ll see a little more of the power running game that was on display against Cal and which seems to almost fit this group better. Hawaii does a good job pass protecting, having allowed only 23 sacks despite passing almost every down, though the nature of the run-and-shoot means there shouldn’t be a lot of sacks, either.
DL — UW. Another call I might regret, as the Huskies obviously struggled to get a pass rush last week, while Hawaii turned in a nice effort on Boise State’s offense — the game was statistically more of a route than the 39-27 score would indicate as Hawaii held BSU to 332 yards and 101 rushing on 35 carries, 50 of which came on one play. On the other hand, Hawaii gave up 200-plus rushing yards to Nevada and Fresno State and 223 against Louisiana Tech, so this is a unit that has been pushed around a few times. UW coaches talked this week about opening things up a little on defense, playing more younger players, in an attempt to get more pass rush, so maybe you’ll see more of guys like Cameron Elisara this week.
LB — Hawaii. This may he Hawaii’s defensive strength led by Rainier Beach grad Adam Leonard on the outside, a player the Huskies probably regret not taking more of a gamble on. He’s a big-playmaker having returned two interceptions for touchdowns this season. Hawaii likes to blitz, especially at home, and has 37 sacks, though Locker’s presence will likely help keep that in check. The Huskies still miss too many tackles in this area and also seem out of position a bit too often, not to mention dropping too many interception chances.
DB — Hawaii. Hawaii has an experienced unit, though one that has given up yards at times, though often in catch-up situations (New Mexico State, for instance, threw for 365 in a game it lost 50-13). More relevant may be holding Boise State to 231 last week (though the Huskies held the Broncos to a similar total, 209, in week two). Still, hard to give UW the edge here after the WSU and Arizona games and the feeling that the teams that have had good pass-catch combos this year and came in wanting to throw the ball on UW were generally able to do so.
ST — Hawaii. UW had its best game of the season in this area last week, and has been steadily improving Both kickers have been solid of late, save the blocked punt at Oregon State, and Anthony Russo has turned into a dangerous punt returner. But Hawaii has good return guys as well, returning three kickoffs and one punt for a touchdown this season, and a good kicker in Dan Kelly, who hit a 45-yarder on the road to win the Nevada game. Kelly, however, has been bothered by an ankle injury this week so we’ll see if that bothers him come game time.
So add it up and here’s what I came up with — Hawaii 48, UW 38. Yes, I think the Huskies will be able to move the ball on Hawaii. But not sure they will ever be able to stop the Warriors. And I’m thinking the home field and all that comes with that will help break a decisive big play Hawaii’s way. UW has won two road games this season, but it has lost the three times it has played good teams in tough environments on the road, winning only in the relative library at Stanford and in front of a small crowd at Syracuse.
BTW — The Huskies are arriving here around 6 p.m. or so and won’t do a walk-through at the stadium, having decided there will be enough time ahead of time tomorrow to get acclimated. They also did that so they can have more time on the back end for the players to spend here. NCAA rules apparently allow 60 hours on a trip such as this, so the team won’t leave until Monday, giving them Sunday to hang out here as they wish.

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