Spent the morning listening to the dualing sports radio shows each bat around varying versions of what was essentially the same question — is tomorrow’s UW game the biggest of Jake Locker’s career?
The implication was that without a win tomorrow, the odds are really against the Huskies getting to a bowl game — and that would mean one of the most heralded players in school history would himself go without ever making it to the post-season, something that seemed unfathomable on that sunny July Sunday when he committed to UW back in 2005.
Certainly, there are valid reasons for thinking tomorrow’s game is just about a must-win.
After Saturday, UW finishes with four of six on the road, only one of which it would be favored to win — an Apple Cup game at WSU that looks increasingly tricky no matter what happens to the Huskies the rest of the way.
And one of the home games is with Stanford. Going 4-2 against that slate after going 2-4 against a front-loaded home schedule would be pretty difficult.
So the urgency — which seemed missing at times last week — ought to be there.
What’s hard to tell is the exact condition of Locker and how that might impact matters. He suffered a thigh bruise that is probably a little worse than they were letting on given that he didn’t practice much the first three days of the week. If nothing else, that got Keith Price more prepared to play in case he’s called on (as well as Nick Montana, who ran his own team’s plays and not just those of the scout team for the first time in a while).
The Huskies will also certainly be without WR Devin Aguilar (and even if he plays, he’d be nowhere near 100 percent) and also have a revamped offensive line in which true freshman Colin Porter is likely to get his first start at guard (and likely a few meetings with maybe the best DT in the Pac-10 in Stephen Paea — a nice welcome to college football).
There’s lots of other factors that portend a little ominously for the Huskies — they haven’t defended the run real well all, year and now face maybe the best RB in the conference in Jacquizz Rodgers and a pretty good OL (despite numbers that might indicate otherwise, which are probably best viewed as due largely to playing a really tough schedule so far). UW hasn’t been real great against the pass, either, and now faces an OSU QB in Ryan Katz who appears to be finding his strides, fresh off 393 yards at Arizona.
But OSU has its own issues — tomorrow will be the first game since the season-ending injury to WR James Rodgers, acclaimed as the heart-and-soul of the team; a couple OLs who have been limited all week in practice; a knee injury to WR Markus Wheaton, who will be called on to be the leader at that spot with Rodgers out.
OSU does have recent history on its side — it has won six in a row against UW, four in a row at Husky Stadium, and has won 10 of its last 14 conference road games.
And no team has seemed to physically dominate the Huskies the way OSU has the last few years — last season’s game was a rout, 41-7 at the end of three quarters, before UW tacked on a couple meaningless scores late to make the numbers look a little better.
Despite all that, I think the Huskies can pull this one off (and I explained why in audio form today during what is becoming a regular Friday morning appearance with Mitch Levy on KJR-AM which you can access here).
UW has now had a week to prepare for knowing that Erik Kohler will be out and that Aguilar will also likely be sidelined. And they’ve also had a week to devise a gameplan that maybe won’t put as much stress on Locker in case his thigh can’t handle it. The home field, the law of averages, and a desperate team will equal a UW win. Call it Huskies, 31-28.