Okay, so for those who complained last week, I’ve changed the title of this thread, the where I unveil my prediction for each game.
That also might make for a good opportunity to note that part of the purpose of this weekly entry is for everyone else to make their picks, as well. So feel free to add yours in the comments section.
Obviously, this is a key game for the Huskies. They all are in their own way in a season as short as those in college football. But given what happened last week, there’s some definite urgency for the Huskies to put out a better performance than they did against Eastern.
That game, despite being a win, helped sharply dampen the expectations that greeted the season, expectations that were generated in large part by the win over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
The Eastern game, instead, looked like too many of the lost moments of 2010 — notably, the three-game losing streak that led to the 3-6 start before the Huskies righted the ship.
The hope was that the four-game winning streak that ended the season was the beginning of the turnaround to contention.
The Hawaii game may well show if that’s still the case, if last weekend was just a blip on the road to full recovery, or if maybe it was really the Holiday Bowl that was something of a mirage, instead. Maybe that sounds like overreading it. But again, in seasons as short as those in college football, it’s hard to fight the urge to make big judgments based on single games (though if you read this space often, that’s what I try usually urge as the best course).
Obviously, a good performance by the Huskies today will quiet all the disquieting talk, at least for a week.
And there won’t be any excuses this time of UW possibly overlooking an opponent or not being ready at kickoff. UW coach Steve Sarkisian took some extreme measures this week to get the team back on track, with harsh public words about the team’s performance, and hard practices all week (even closing Thursday’s).
You’d imagine the Huskies will today give their best shot.
So the question is whether that will be enough?
Hawaii, as well detailed all week, presents lots of challenges with its Run-and-Shoot offense, especially for a UW defense that just allowed 473 passing yards to Eastern. The hope is that another week of practice, the return of Quinton Richardson, and maybe some better individual matchups — Hawaii has more shoeter, quicker receivers instead of the taller receivers that so bothered the Huskies last week — will lead to vast improvement by UW’s secondary. The hope is also that the defensive line may have better luck against a rebuilt Hawaii offensive front that has five new starters from last year.
The qualifier there is that Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz presents a different challenge than Bo Levi Mitchell in his ability to run the ball, so the Huskies can’t just spend all their time worrying about the pass. It seems inevitable Hawaii will make some plays. UW just has to make sure they keep the big plays to a minimum and get better pressure and tighter coverage to maybe force a few turnovers and get Hawaii out of its rhythm.
Hawaii figures to be much better than Eastern on defense, especially up front. The good news for UW is that Chris Polk should be back to top form after finally having a full week of practice, and that QB Keith Price and receiver Jermaine Kearse also again appear healthy.
Sarkisian has also promised to open up the playbook some more (so don’t be surprised to see some surprises) and maybe that will help the Huskies get some of the “explosive plays” that were so missing last week.
And given the tone of the week, who knows what other motivational tactics have or may be used (is this a time for another new-look to the uniforms after going with the traditional Purple and Gold last week?)
Hawaii also is notoriously a different team on the Mainland, though it did beat a decent Army on the road last year as well as winning at Fresno State.
Intriguingly, the oddsmakers installed UW as a 3-point favorite early in the week and it quickly shot to six points — the wise guys apparently either showing confidence in UW or a lack-of-same in Hawaii.
I thought UW would win big this week, and as a number of you pointed out to me — funny, no one remembers when you’re right — I was dead wrong. (Though what I don’t know yet is whether I was wrong about UW or was wrong about Eastern — that’s what we begin to find out this week).
But last week hasn’t changed my overall feeling about this team just yet. I’ve stated I view this as a seven-win team, and this all along has been one of the games it had to get to get to seven. I’ll stick with that feeling and call for the Huskies to do what they’ve done best of late — hang in there and win a close one. Call it UW 34, Hawaii 31.