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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

September 17, 2010 at 4:00 PM

The pick. …

Kickoff is nearing for a game that could go a long way toward defining UW’s season, as well as providing a lot more clarity to exactly where the Huskies are on the road back to college football revelancy.
Win this one, and the loss to BYU is pretty much forgotten, and much momentum gained heading into Pac-10 play two weeks from now. A 2-1 record would be about what everyone could have best realistically hoped for heading into the season.
But lose, and the Huskies will face an uphill battle to the bowl game that has been the stated goal since the minute the 2009 season ended. There’s also the little matter of upholding the promise Steve Sarkisian made at the Raise the Woof celebration a few weeks ago (broadcast live on radio) that the Huskies wouldn’t lose a home game this season.
Nebraska’s got a lot on the line, as well. The Cornhuskers are rated No. 8 in the country, but haven’t beaten anyone of real note yet this year, and with a redshirt freshman QB in tow, it’s legitimate to wonder if the team has what it takes to win a game in a hostile environment.
The hope on the Nebraska side is surely that it’s strong enough up front to mitigate any questions surrounding the readiness of Taylor Martinez to deal with all that will await him tomorrow at Husky Stadium. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said this week he didn’t “anticipate” it being a problem. UW fans are undoubtedly waiting in anticipation to prove otherwise.
That battle in the trenches, though, is almost certainly where this game really will be won.
On paper, Nebraska appears to have the edges on the lines on both sides of the ball, featuring a veteran OL that has 85 career starts, and a defensive line featuring two of the better DLs UW will face all year in tackle Jared Crick and end Pierre Allen.
UW didn’t win either battle against BYU, and while it was thought by me and a lot of other pundits that its skill positions edges would prove enough to overcome that, we were obviously proven wrong.
UW kind of worked around the issue last week by putting in a game plan that got the ball to its skill guys on the perimeter and let them use their edges in athleticism and speed to make plays. But that won’t work this week. At some point, UW is going to have to knock Nebraska off the ball.
The Huskies appear poised to unveil a new offensive line, featuring highly-touted true frosh Erik Kohler at left guard. Maybe that will do the trick on that side of the ball. And maybe the energy supplied by a sold-out crowd (though admittedly, one that will contain a hefty share of fans rooting for the other team) will help on the defensive side.
And in a weird sort of way, Jake Locker is the X factor in this one. Just about any on-paper objective assessment of this game would give more of the position-by-position edges to Nebraska. But a great quarterback can make up for weaknesses elsewhere. This is another one of those games where Locker needs to turn in an elite performance. If he does that (and if Martinez plays like a redshirt frosh in his first game on the road) then this is a game the Huskies can definitely win.
Maybe the images of BYU are still too fresh in the mind (or maybe I’m not giving enough justice to the homefield advantage), but I’m going to go with the team that seems to be better up front and call it a close win for Nebraska, 23-16.

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