Time to publish the first “The Pick. …” entry of the year.
Not that there’s much suspense to this one. I’m kind of a believer in the percentages, and they all point to UW winning this one with relative ease tomorrow.
In doing some research this week, I found a couple of sites that detailed well how FBS teams usually have their way with FCS squads.
First, here’s a complete record for every FBS team in such matchups (that’s 69-7 for the Pac-12); and next, a year-by-year breakdown and point differential, which has only been increasing in recent seasons.
The first link shows how dominant BCS-type teams have been in these matchups, and also how often some of them have played lower-division teams (Clemson is a whopping 24-0, for instance). And as you can see in the Pac-12 standings, four of the losses are by Oregon State during its years as maybe the worst program in Division-I.
The second links shows that FBS teams were 237-13 against FCS teams the last three years (through the first month of 2010, anyway) usually winning by three touchdowns or so.
Obviously, UW is picking the best of the bunch in its first time playing an FCS team as Eastern Washington is the defending champ. EWU also lost 59-7 at Cal in 2009 the last time it played a Pac-10/12 team.
Sure, upsets do happen, but as the numbers illustrate, they are also rare. If UW is anything close to the team that its supporters think it is and that the comments of the coaches indicate they think it is, the Huskies should win this game fairly easily tomorrow.
Not that there aren’t some real areas of intrigue. Among the most intriguing:
1, How does Keith Price play in his first game as the team’s established starter? This is a good chance for him to ease into the job before stiffer tests await. Steve Sarkisian says he’s never looked better in practice than the last two weeks, but he’s also said that until you see how a quarterback performs consistently on gameday, you never know for sure. Price begins to answer that question tomorrow.
2, How do the new linebackers perform? This will be the first start for John Timu and the second for Princeton Fuimaono (he started last year against Arizona) and each will be challenged by an offense that will present them with a lot of different looks. Their challenge will be as much mental as physical tomorrow.
3, How well can Greg Ducre step in for Quinton Richardson? The Eagles are sure to try to target the untested Ducre (and Anthony Gobern when he’s in there), who will replace Richardson, who is almost certainly out with a high ankle sprain. The biggest danger for UW in this one is letting EWU get a big play or two early and hanging around for a while, and the places where Washington is young on defense are obviously where it is most vulnerable to letting such big plays happen.
4, Will the special teams finally be special again? Coaches typically say that overall depth (85 scholarships for FBS teams to 63 for FVS) tends to be the biggest difference in FBS-FCS games, and that can often manifest itself most greatly on special teams. This game is a great chance for the Huskies to begin building some momentum with its coverage and return units.
5, What about some of UW’s heralded freshmen? Unquestionably, a big curiosity is seeing the debut of guys like Kasen Williams, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Bishop Sankey and Danny Shelton, all of whom are expected to see significant action tomorrow. The first two, in particular, should each have early chances to make a real impact and finally translate to a game the potential they have shown throughout camp.
As stated earlier, Eastern is a great FCS program, and should make its share of plays tomorrow. Washington, as almost always happens in these games, should simply make more, even if there may be some fits and starts offensively as Price gets comfortable, and eventually wear down the Eagles — especially up front, the area where there can often be the biggest difference in overall depth, size and strength.
So call it Washington 37, Eastern Washington 13.