This early in the college football season, stats and trends can be pretty irrelevant.
They really are when it comes to matchups like Washington’s Saturday against Portland State.
UW has played LSU, which has maybe the best defense in the country, and San Diego State. Portland State has played NAIA Carroll College (the Vikings beat Carroll 38-20, which is one more point than Montana Tech beat Carroll by last week) and North Dakota (to which it lost, 45-37).
So statistical comparisons between the two teams aren’t going to tell us much.
The one number I think is relevant tomorrow is this — 22.
That’s UW’s longest gain of the season, coming on a pass from Keith Price to Kevin Smith in the late third quarter last week at LSU.
With UW’s unproven running game, this isn’t a Husky team that figures to make a lot of methodical marches up and down the field against most teams (though maybe it will Saturday in a game in which it should have a significant edge in talent).
What it was thought UW would be able to do, though, is use the likes of Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins to turn in a bunch of big plays. And it kind of goes without saying that UW has to get that aspect of its game going as it heads into the meat of its schedule the next three (four? five?) weeks.
UW coach Steve Sarkisian said this week he thought the Huskies were “just a little bit off” in converting some big plays. “The continuity is just a little bit off, we’re just a hair off here and there. And that doesn’t mean we won’t get there, it is just taken us a little longer than we’ve liked. … we haven’t done maybe as good as job of that at making them pay in the secondary when they are in those one-on-one scenarios.”
Sarkisian said “it’s been a big point of emphasis of ours of making those plays in our one-on-one setting” this week in practice.
If the Huskies can’t get that going against the Vikings, then that obviously won’t bode well for the rest of the season.
UW also has to get some confidence going in its running game, which would both help create some big plays in the passing game and also be helped by a consistent passing attack. And it needs to dominate defensively the way its likely edge in talent projects that it should. Portland State’s Pistol offense requires discipline to defend, and it shouldn’t be alarming if the Vikings create a big play or two here or there. But consistent long marches up and down the field shouldn’t happen. And UW should have every special teams edge, as well, just due to what on paper is an edge in talent from top to bottom.
The way UW lost last week creates lost of questions about the rest of the season. And the reality is that this game is mostly one in which those questions can only be further raised, not answered. As Hugh Millen has said all week, a 50-point UW win or so won’t really tell anything. A struggle, though, would tell a lot.
Here’s to thinking that the Huskies finally get the offense on track and get the comfortable win that will at least ease the anxiety for a few days. Call it WASHINGTON 41, PORTLAND STATE 13.