No suspense here – there’s really no justifiable reason to predict anything other than a relatively easy Huskies victory in this one, even considering the inherent unpredictability of a team playing its first game under a new head coach.
The biggest storyline for UW, of course, besides Petersen’s debut, is the first career start for third-year sophomore quarterback Jeff Lindquist, who won the starting job over redshirt freshman Troy Williams.
And it’s what Lindquist did during camp to earn that nod – good decisions, ball control, improved accuracy – that he must display against Hawaii, which finished last season ranked 115th nationally in total defense, finished with a 1-11 record and has installed a new scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Kevin Clune. (Here's a link to our Hawaii preview from earlier this summer, with a few of their key returning contributors listed.)
As Petersen said earlier this week, the Huskies don’t need Lindquist to be spectacular. They just need him to complete the throws that are given to him, distribute the ball to guys like Dwayne Washington and Jaydon Mickens, and avoid catastrophic turnovers while keeping the chains moving.
To that end, I think we could see a pretty dedicated effort to run the ball in not only this game, but throughout the Huskies nonconference schedule. If Washington, Lavon Coleman, Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper can carry the load well enough to wear down the Rainbow Warriors’ defense – behind a veteran offensive line at that – Lindquist will have a much easier time throwing the ball against a secondary that had all kinds of problems last season defending the pass.
Keep in mind, also, that Hawaii is breaking in a relatively new quarterback. But Ikaika Woolsey has more experience than Lindquist – he made two starts at quarterback in 2013 completing 11-for-29 through the air for 149 yards and three interceptions – and if there’s one area of Washington’s defense the Rainbow Warriors would be wise to attack, it’s probably the Huskies’ secondary, which will be debuting three new starters. And at 6-foot and 245 pounds, senior running back Joey Iosefa will test the Huskies’ tackling ability. Containing him will be key. But the guess here is that Washington’s athletic ability at linebacker, and its experience up front, will be able to keep Iosefa from carrying Hawaii's offense.
The long trip isn’t ideal for a season opener, but all things considered, this seems a pretty soft landing for Lindquist and the rest of the Huskies’ young starters and contributors. I don’t necessarily see UW’s offense clicking in a big enough way to predict a blowout, but a comfortable victory seems about right.
The pick: Washington 38, Hawaii 14.
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple