BOULDER, Colo. – This is a game you simply don’t lose.
No matter the circumstance, no matter the unexpected pitfalls, there are few reasons why the Washington Huskies should lose to the Colorado Buffaloes today at Folsom Field.
The discrepancy between the two teams in talent and momentum is too great to overlook.
For Washington, last weekend’s 34-15 win over Utah was perhaps the Huskies’ best performance of the season and it likely secured a third consecutive bowl berth. After being inconsistent most of the season, quarterback Keith Price and the UW offense seemed to find a rhythm.
“I thought it was a complete performance,” coach Steve Sarkisian said. “Hopefully it’s one we can build on here and continue to grow from as we head into the last couple ballgames of the season.”
Meanwhile, Colorado lost its sixth game in a row – 56-31 to Arizona in a contest that wasn’t as close as the lopsided score seemed to indicate. The Buffaloes had no answer for Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey, who set a Pacific-12 Conference record with 366 yards rushing along with five touchdowns on 25 carries.
Colorado has given up at least 42 points in all six Pac-12 losses.
With fans’ interest waning and Colorado coach Jon Embree’s future in doubt, even the home-field advantage won’t be great for the Buffaloes.
“I know Coach Embree,” Sarkisian said. “I know him personally and I know he is fighting his tail off with that coaching staff to get the best out of his football team. It’s challenging. We’ve been there before and it’s not always fun, it’s not always easy, but when you watch the film they are playing hard.”
And yet, even as a heavy favorite, the Huskies know they aren’t accomplished enough as a football team to look past the reeling Buffaloes and toward next week’s Apple Cup, and still win.
“It doesn’t matter to us,” linebacker John Timu said of the Huskies’ rare role as the heavy favorite. “They are all nameless, faceless opponents – I’ve said it before. It doesn’t matter what the record is for Colorado. They are respected in this game and we need to go out and dominate and hopefully come out with a win.”
There have been a few bright spots for the Buffaloes this season. Bruising freshman running back Christian Powell has three 100-yard rushing games. Sophomore quarterback Nick Hirschman looked solid last week before leaving with a concussion. Hirschman’s status for today is unknown. If he can’t go, transfer Connor Wood will likely start in his place.
“They are a pro-style offense,” UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. “They’ve got good tight ends. The back is very heavy; he gets a lot of yards after contact, which is something we haven’t done a great job of limiting. So that’s going to be a test for us. We’ve got to go out and execute.”
But even if Colorado does get points, Washington should get more. Colorado is last in the Pac-12 in just about every statistical category: scoring defense (47.2), total defense (505.2 yards per game), run defense (227.6 yards per game) and second to last in pass defense (277.4 yards per game).
“We just have to attack this thing like any other week,” Price said. “If we just play the way that we’re capable of playing, we’ll be fine.”
Sarkisian isn’t going to change anything based on Arizona’s success running against Colorado last week.
“We’re going to do what we’re good at,” he said. “We’re not going to try to reinvent the wheel, we’re not going to become Arizona and run Arizona’s offense this week. We’re going to run our offense and execute it to the best of our ability. That gives us the best chance to be successful.”
Washington, with a three-game winning streak, is on track to finish the regular season with an 8-4 record, its best under Sarkisian.
But an upset by Colorado would go far in spoiling the good feelings from recent weeks of success. Coaches on the UW staff have tried to make sure no letdown is possible.
“At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter,” Wilcox said. “It’s about how we prepare, how we execute –whether we’re playing Colorado, Utah, USC, the Seahawks, Bellevue High – it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t.
“It has to do with how you prepare and how you execute on game day. And if you do that to the best of your ability, then you can feel good about what happens.”