But first, a few notes that I’d better post and address before it becomes Friday night and no one’s reading any of this anymore (and that’s making an admittedly bold assumption that anyone’s reading it now). …
— UW apparently will have just one recruit on an official visit this week, according to Dawgman.com, in linebacker Leilon Willingham (no relation) of Denver.
— According to the school, the honorees as the Husky Legend tomorrow at the end of the third quarter will be all the athletes inducted into the UW Hall of Fame tonight. That includes former guard Benji Olson.
— I did an interview with the Stanford fan blog GoMightyCard that you can read here.
— And to address a couple of comments I’ve gotten considering the running game post:
1, I don’t think you can just take Jake Locker’s runs out of the mix and say the fact that Chris Polk is averaging 5.2 per carry and Jesse Callier 5.4 definitively proves that UW should just hand the ball to those two guys more. Both of those guys have gotten some of their biggest runs off Zone Read or other option type plays where the threat of Locker running helps the play to succeed. But obviously defenses won’t set up their defense to try to stop the run of Locker — which opens up those runs for the others — if he never runs at all. So it all works together in both the good and the bad, and I think the team average of 4.6 is a more-than-fair representation of UW’s overall success running the ball. The best way to really clear up that issue is to break runs down by which were simply straight-ahead runs to the TBs vs. those that were options. But that’s really hard to do without knowing the specific play call in each instance.
2, As several of you pointed out to me, it’s a little bit of a fallacy to look at rushing numbers and necessarily conclude that a team won solely because it ran the ball well — maybe the team ran the ball well because it was winning and could afford to just run, etc. I’m well aware of that. There is no question that the stats always thrown out there about how a team is “50-0 when it rushes for 400 yards or more” can be misconstrued as concluding solely that all a team has to do is rush for a certain number of yards and, presto, it will win. Oregon State in the ’90s is proof that it’s not that simple. But, I think that in UW’s specific case this year that when it runs better it will have a much better chance to win since the offense, at its most basic, is predicated on using the run to set up play-action passes. Without a successful run game, the play-action doesn’t work so well and it all starts to fall apart. But there’s absolutely no question that teams that have leads usually turn to the run late to run out the clock and often build up rushing totals, and that teams that are behind have to throw the ball, etc.
Now, for “The Pick,” …
Many of you have let me know you’re tired of the whole “must-win” scenarios I point out on here, so I’ll dispense with that quickly since anyone reading this surely knows the team’s record, who UW plays next, etc. Simply put, a win tomorrow reignites the season, a loss goes a long way toward ending it.
As for the game, the obvious marquee matchup is that of Locker and Andrew Luck (which I wrote about, as have many other people this week, in my preview of the game for the Saturday paper, available already on-line).
But a bigger key, I think, may be the matchup I assessed in the Scouting Report posted earlier:
Stanford has one of the more veteran offensive lines in the conference with a combined 103 career starts among Saturday’s five projected starters. The line has allowed just three sacks this season and paved the way for Stanford to rush for 17 touchdowns. UW, meanwhile, will likely start two true freshmen on its defensive line due to injuries —- DT Sione Potoa’e and DE Hau’oli Jamora. UW may have to get creative to stop the run and pressure QB Andrew Luck.
Stanford’s defense has been good, but not great, and I think the Huskies can move the ball and score some points on the Cardinal. But UW will need to continue to be efficient. UW has actually been pretty good in the red zone this year, scoring on 20 of 22 possessions overall with 15 touchdowns, and has lost just nine turnovers overall (and not to pick on him, but all but one are by Locker, who has four fumbles and four interceptions. The other is a lost fumble by Chris Polk).
UW has lost just three turnovers in its four losses, so that hasn’t really been the issue other than the Nebraska game, where the early interception helped turn the momentum quickly.
So UW needs to continue to play cleanly and convert every opportunity because I think the Huskies will have trouble stopping Stanford offensively, and largely for the reason stated above. Stanford should have a pretty big edge with its OL against UW’s DL, and that’s a hard thing to just scheme around. Ultimately, I see that being the difference as I think UW will score some and will play a lot better than last week and will stay in it for awhile before the Cardinal pulls it out. Call it, Stanford 31, Washington 27.