University of Washington

Huskies heavy favorites Saturday against Georgia State

When there is a $900,000 paycheck awaiting one team at the end of a college football game, membership in Mensa is not required to discern which school is expected to win.

The side shelling all that cash is doing it in exchange for what should be an easy victory against a smaller, less financially privileged program. On Saturday at Husky Stadium, the part of the rich guy will be played by the Washington Huskies (3-0), who host a fledgling Georgia State program in its fifth year of existence and second year of Football Bowl Subdivision membership (3 p.m., Pac-12 Network).

GSU (1-2) finished with an 0-12 record last season in its first year of Sun Belt Conference membership, and recently snapped a 16-game losing streak by beating Abilene Christian, 38-37, in its season opener.

Because the Huskies played a game at Hawaii this season, they are allowed to schedule a fourth nonconference game to help offset the costs of traveling to Honolulu. That’s why UW will play 13 regular-season games in 2014, and why Georgia State was added to the slate.

But first-year coach Chris Petersen isn’t interested in the circumstances that led to his team playing a game against such an opponent, saying “I don’t even think about it like that.”

Instead, Petersen is thinking about players like GSU junior quarterback Nick Arbuckle, a transfer from Los Angeles Pierce College who threw for 414 yards in a 48-38 loss last week to Air Force, and averages 373.7 yards passing per game this season.

“I just put the tape on, and say, ‘Is this a problem?’ And I see a team that threw for (414) yards, and I’m going, ‘That’s a problem. That’s a good challenge for us,’ ” Petersen said.

Of Arbuckle, Georgia State quarterbacks coach Luke Huard said: “There’s guys that are taller, stronger arms, more athletic. But when you put the whole package together, combine his physical attributes with his mental acumen, that’s what really attracted us to him.”

He has Petersen’s attention, even if he plays for a team that has so far allowed 490.7 yards per game to Abilene Christian, New Mexico State and Air Force.

“And so those (scheduling) issues are for, like, offseason, AD-level, all those type of things,” Petersen said. “So I just look at what they do well and know they’re going to create some problems for us, and how are we going to try to stop those and get better?”

That will be the goal, then, for the Huskies, who begin Pac-12 play next Saturday (Sept. 27) with a 1:15 p.m. home game against defending conference champion Stanford.

Huskies players are saying all the right things about not overlooking the Panthers.

“I think Georgia State is a sleeper,” UW quarterback Cyler Miles said Monday. “Watching them on film for a couple days now, they’re a good team. They hustle to the ball. They create turnovers. But we’re approaching this game, honestly, like any other game. We don’t look at it as an easy game, or this is a hard game, or this is an average game. Every game’s the same. The preparation is the exact same, so nothing changes.”

There is no specific area in which he would like to see improvement on Saturday, Petersen said, aside from building upon last week’s 44-19 victory over Illinois.

“Probably everything,” he said Thursday. “We’re trying to get better at everything. But that’s not the question. The question is, ‘Are we making progress?’ And I think we made progress last week, and I think we all know that we’re only as good as our last game, and so we reload and see where we are in two days.”

Almost certainly, they will be 4-0. Whether they also get better remains to be seen.