HONOLULU — So, so, so many questions.
What is this new era of Chris Petersen football going to look like?
How will Jeff Lindquist handle his first start at quarterback?
Is Dwayne Washington Washington’s next great running back?
How will the shuffled — and beefier — offensive line perform?
Is Kasen Williams really 100-percent healthy?
Why hasn’t John Ross scored a touchdown already?
Is this new 3-4ish defense really that much different?
Will Hau’oli Kikaha please be nicer to that poor quarterback?
When will Shaq Thompson get a touch(down) on offense?
Can Brandon Beaver hold up at strong safety?
Is Budda Baker the greatest freshman in the history of freshmen?
How will Cameron Van Winkle respond with a pressure kick?
Why haven’t we seen the Statue of Liberty yet?
Saturday, we’ll finally start to get some answers.
The Huskies are a 17-point favorite against Hawaii entering Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. PT kickoff (CBS Sports Network). The Rainbow Warriors were 1-11 last season, but they’re expected to be better in Norm Chow’s third season in Honolulu.
Lindquist will be the center of attention for UW. It’s his job to manage this game and, first and foremost, that means limiting the mistakes — which is a big reason he won this opening-day start.
The bigger question is whether Lindquist can hold off the suspended Cyler Miles for the full-time job. We won’t know that Saturday night, either, but we should have a good feel by the time the game’s over.
Lindquist doesn’t have to be Peyton Manning. The hunch here is that an efficient 200-yard, two-touchdown, no-turnover performance would make him and the coaches happy, and also keep him in the running for the fulltime job next week. We might see redshirt freshman Troy Williams for the first time, but ideally only in a mop-up situation. If he plays any earlier than that, it’s probably not a good sign of where things are for the UW offense.
Sophomore Dwyane Washington should get the first carry. Redshirt freshman Lavon Coleman will get quite a few as well, presumably, with seniors Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper in there, too. Coaches have said they would prefer one guy to emerge, and that may happen soon enough; all four should share the load for the first few games, though.
On defense, UW’s strength is, of course, its front seven, loaded with veterans and guys with elite playmaking potential. Hawaii is breaking in a new quarterback, and its receiving corps is very thin, so it will surely rely on its experienced offensive line and 245-pound senior running back Joey Iosefa. The dude is huge, and he looks legit. Still, conventional wisdom says the best way to beat the Huskies is to challenge its young secondary, and Hawaii’s Ikaika Woolsey is unproven in that regard.
I think we’re all curious to see Budda Baker start his very first college game at free safety. It’s a demanding position, and a daunting task for a true freshman, but all indications are that Baker is poised to handle it. I wasn’t covering UW two years ago when Shaq Thompson stepped into a similar situation, but I can’t recall a freshman coming in with more expectation and this much hype. (De’Anthony Thomas at Oregon a few years ago came in with similar buzz, but he wasn’t asked to do this much this early.) Baker will probably get a touch or two as the second kick returner (alongside John Ross), and we’ll probably see him on kickoff coverage and/or punt coverage, too. He’ll be busy.
Questions abound, sure, but the Huskies should have all the answers against Hawaii on Saturday.
My pick: Washington 38, Hawaii 24.