We’ve talked and written a lot this month about Washington’s shift to a no-huddle, up-tempo offense. It’s unlikely that we’ll see that warp speed on every play in the Huskies’ season opener against No. 19 Boise State, but I’m sure we’ll still see plenty of it — probably in spurts — in new Husky Stadium on Saturday night.
It’s an important philosophical change, and a necessary one, for an offense that averaged just 24 points per game last season (down from 33.4 points in 2011). That’s not going to get it done in the Pac-12 Conference.
It’s a delicate balance, of course. Critics of the no-huddle, spread-type offenses use words like “gimmick” and, worse, “soft.”
I’m putting this game on the Washington offensive line, and if the starting five — LT Micah Hatchie, LG Dexter Charles, C Mike Criste, RG Colin Tanigawa and RT Ben Riva — is as “nasty” as Steve Sarkisian boasts, they can set the tone for this game and for this season for the Huskies.
Can the line be physical, be fast and be effective?
Keith Price was sacked 37 times in 2012, and UW quarterbacks had 122 dropbacks in which they were under pressure last season, third most by any BCS automatic-qualifying school, according to ESPN.com. More telling: Price threw the ball away nearly four times more in 2012 as he did in his breakout 2011 season.
For a maligned as the O-line was last year, Bishop Sankey ran quite effectively behind the line last year. He was more than effective — he was dominant — against Boise State in the Vegas bowl, rushing 30 times for 205 yards. I have a hunch we’ll see just as much of him Saturday night, especially with the suspension of Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
In the past month, I’ve heard the phrase “chip on our shoulder” enough to fill a Doritos warehouse. Yes, the Huskies are pissed off after losing their last two games of 2012. That could’ve been a nine-win team. It wasn’t, and here they are this month answering more questions about whether they’re capable of taking that “next step.”
On Saturday night, at least, I think they are.
Certainly, there is hesitation in picking against the Broncos, who beat the Huskies 28-26 in the Vegas bowl on a late field goal. Chris Petersen is a staggering 84-8 as the Boise State head coach, and the Broncos haven’t lost a game by more than four points since 2007.
It’s going to be close Saturday night. It’s going to be exciting. And, if all goes well for UW, it’s going to be nasty.
Prediction: Washington 31, Boise State 28
Elsewhere in the Pac-12:
Auburn 38, Washington State 28: It’s sorta, kinda almost tempting to pick the Cougars in the upset on the road. But … nah. Auburn was a terrible team by SEC standards last year, but Mike Leach still has a lot to prove at WSU. I’m not buying it just yet.
UCLA 38, Nevada 17: There are big question marks about the Bruins’ running game, but sophomore QB Brett Hundley is a darkhorse Heisman candidate. I like UCLA at home here.
Northwestern 41, California 24: The Bears are starting a true freshman at quarterback, and Northwestern is a sleeper pick to win the Big Ten.
Colorado 20, Colorado State 17: I don’t know, why not? The Buffs need some love, right?
Oregon 60, Nicholls State 6: This is pathetic.