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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

September 20, 2013 at 2:04 PM

Pac-12 predictions: On the Huskies’ chances against Arizona (oh, UW plays Idaho State this week?)

UW's Kevin Smith breaks away from Illinois' Taylor Barton during the Huskies' 34-24 victory in Chicago last week. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

UW’s Kevin Smith breaks away from Illinois’ Taylor Barton during the Huskies’ 34-24 victory in Chicago last week. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Well, there’s not a whole lot of analysis necessary for this one.

I’m tempted to break down UW’s game against Arizona next week already. I think that has more value for our purposes than any insights about Idaho State. As Kasen Williams told me this week, everyone expects the Huskies to beat the Bengals by 45 points — and that’s what they plan to do.

The question that will linger a week from now is, how will the Huskies close that 35-point gap against Arizona in their Pac-12 opener? As I’ve written before, I think Arizona is on paper the most important game of the season for UW, particularly in the context of the daunting three-week stretch that follows: at No. 5 Stanford, vs. No. 2 Oregon and at No. 23 Arizona State.

I asked UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox earlier this week if he planned to do any prep work on Arizona this week. Even if he was, I didn’t realistically expect him to tell me so — coaches typically don’t want to show disrespect to their opponent this week — but I believed him when he said he wasn’t peeking ahead. In the offseason, he told me, coaches break down film of all their opponents for the following season, and then during the season graduate assistants typically gather and organize more current film of the following week’s opponent.

At the very least, Wilcox and the rest of the UW staff probably have a least a general outline of what they want and need to do next week. In the past, Wilcox said he would try to double-up on breaking down opponents, but it became too cluttered trying to juggle both. Makes sense. It would also makes sense if UW coaches got right to work Saturday night in honing in on the Wildcats.

As for Idaho State?

It’s surely an encouraging sign for coaches that the Huskies appear to be maturing and appear to be “buying in” to The Process more and more. Williams used himself as an example of a guy who, in the past, wasn’t on-point as he should’ve been at all times — which is what it takes to succeed consistently at this level. Mondays matter, as boring as they can be. And good for Williams for maturing and recognizing some of his earlier shortfalls. That’s important. More so, he says he’s working hard to make sure his young teammates don’t fall into that same trap. That’s the sign of a leader.

Earlier this week, Williams also recalled the scene at halftime last year at Husky Stadium when UW hosted Portland State, which, like Idaho State, is a member of the Big Sky Conference. On paper, things looked great for UW leading 45-0 at halftime. But Steve Sarkisian gave the Huskies a major dressing-down on the field, in front of everyone, after a couple of sloppy penalties.

With that in mind, the Huskies want to sharpen some things against Idaho State — namely, cleaning up the 12 penalties from last week, limiting Bishop Sankey‘s touches and figuring out what to do if John Timu can’t play — and they’ll need clean all that up with the daunting month ahead of the them.

Prediction: Huskies 59, Idaho State 6.

Around the Pac-12:

— No. 23 Arizona State at No. 5 Stanford: This ought to be a fun one, and it should give us an indication of just how good the Cardinal are. I have my doubts about Stanford as a realistic national-title contender, but I don’t doubt them at home in this matchup. The pick: Stanford 35, Arizona State 24.

— Idaho at Washington State: This is not a typo: The Cougs rank 11th in the nation in total defense — 11th!  My head hurts. The pick: Washington State 42, Idaho 10.

— Utah State at USC: A trendy ‘upset’ pick this week, but would it really be an upset? The Cougs made USC look plenty vulnerable offensively a couple weeks ago. Still, the Trojans, and QB Cody Kessler, looked much better last week against Boston College, and the defense should be able to slow down Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton just enough. The pick: USC 21, Utah State 17.

— Oregon State at San Diego State: A huge, thrilling win in overtime for the Beavers on the road against Utah last week, despite seeing their starting running back, Storm Woods, wheeled off the field in an ambulance. Feels like that should be a turning point for OSU, which always seems to get better as the season goes on. The pick: Oregon State 52, San Diego State 30.

— New Mexico State at No. 13 UCLA: Another Pac-12 team that won an exciting, emotional road game last week, the Bruins just might score the first 38 points against the Aggies, after scoring the final 38 points to pull away from Nebraska last week. Watch out for UCLA, folks. The pick: UCLA 49, New Mexico State 13.

— Utah at BYU: I’m dropping Bishop Sankey and picking up Utah QB Travis Wilson as the most underrated player in the Pac-12. The pick: Utah 30, BYU 28.



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