Saturday’s penultimate regular season football game is fast approaching, but we’ve still got some questions about the state of the Washington Huskies.
Thankfully, our Washington sister site UW Dawg Pound was gracious enough to help us out. Below, they talk bouncing back, the differences between this year’s Husky team and last year’s, and much, much more. To view our responses to their questions, click here.
House of Sparky: What is the mood in Seattle after suffering that first loss of the season last Saturday against USC?
John Sayler: Somber, very somber. I think few people actually believed the Huskies would go undefeated this season, but watching them go out there and get beaten pretty handily by USC was tough. The Trojans have superior athletes which we knew, but Washington played a very poor game. It was almost like they had won so easily in many of their games that they weren’t ready to make adjustments to have success when the 1-on-1 matchups couldn’t be consistently won.
I think most fans would trade this loss for winning the final two games of the season. In fact, I know they would.
HoS: What's the biggest difference between this Husky team and the one we saw last year?
JS: The long answer: Experience. Last season Jake Browning was inconsistent which would be expected of a true freshman playing behind an inexperienced offensive line and throwing to a lot of inexperienced wide receivers. Browning has grown leaps in his sophomore season and his line (which started a pair of freshman tackles a year ago) is much improved.
Wide receiver play has been much better with the return of John Ross from injury (he missed all of 2015) and the emergence of Dante Pettis. Defensively, five of the top defenders were really coming into their own as sophomores last season, and as upper classmen this year those players have been dominant.
The short answer: John Ross and his 17 touchdowns.
HoS: This Washington offense seems to be as explosive as any we have seen out of the Huskies in recent memory. What makes them tick, and is there any way the shaky Arizona State defense can slow them down?
JS: To stifle the Washington offense, you have to get pressure on Jake Browning and cover his receivers. That is what USC did. Browning is really good at pre-snap reads, so if you simply blitz him, he will attack the hot route. If you fake a blitz, he will know you are faking a blitz and have plan “B” ready to uncork as soon as the ball is snapped.
Chris Petersen loves a balanced attack, but if the box is stacked to stop Myles Gaskin and the running game, expect to see a lot of passing, even if the Huskies have a big lead. Browning loves the quick strike, and sometimes won’t settle for underneath stuff. Cover those receivers well and don’t allow the big play.
HoS: How do most Washington fans view Arizona State and how confident are they about Saturday's game?
JS: There is the notion of “The Streak.” The fact that Washington has not beaten the Sun Devils since 2001 is firmly entrenched in the minds of Husky fans. But fans are pretty confident since UW has handled teams that are middle-to-bottom of the conference.
The fact that Arizona State gives up a lot of big plays bodes well for the Huskies. Still, things have been rough for UW fans over the past 15 years, so overconfidence is something we all struggle to achieve. We respect Todd Graham as a coach and are aware that there is talent on the ASU roster, particularly at the offensive skill positions.
HoS: Let's talk about playoffs. What has to happen over these final three weeks for the Huskies to make the CFP?
JS: Since the Huskies were not the only top-10 team to be upset lately, they are still right in the mix. I’m sure there is some more accurate formula, but if the Huskies can win-out they will be in the conference championship game and have a chance to be Pac-12 champs. If USC continues to play well it will make that loss look “better.”
The opponent in the Pac-12 title game would be a highly ranked Utah, Colorado, or USC team, so win that as well and I suppose it would be hard for them to not make it. None of that is any kind of forgone conclusion, especially after the way the Huskies played a week ago.
HoS: Lastly, give us a prediction for tomorrow's contest.
JS: Washington should be able to get pressure with a four man rush, and if they do, they can play their base defense and the Huskies are really tough when they do that. If they have to blitz a lot, their defense is not built for that and they may struggle in coverage. The skill players for ASU are good, but the offensive line is depleted.
The fact that the Sun Devils give up a lot of big-chunk plays favors the strength of Browning and the Washington offense. ASU will be inspired and play tough in the trenches, but I still think the Huskies pull away to a pretty big win, even if it takes a little while. Call it 52-17 Huskies.