. Here at the hotel Saturday morning, they have gathered.
The seventh-ranked Washington Huskies have practiced with a “wet” football much of the week in practice, but that might not matter given the forecast tonight at kickoff: Nasty, nasty wet.
One shuttle driver told the media crew that got in late Friday night that there is a chance, if it cools down, snow could be coming, too.
We will see later.
Here are three intriguing matchups heading into the UW-Colorado game:
1. Huskies RB Myles Gaskin vs. Colorado MLB Rick Gamboa
Something has got to give on the mushy grass of Folsom Field tonight.
UW coach Chris Petersen has heard all the questions this week about what is wrong with the rushing attack. Nothing, really. It just takes time to get warmed up, he says.
Tonight is the night it gets revved up. Both Mysles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman (out) had 100-yard rushing days in the Pac-12 title game (Gaskin had 159; Coleman had 101) as the Huskies racked up 265 yards. Quarterback Jake Browning said it was the best he’d seen his offense ever run the football against a good defense.
On the other side, Gamboa is the undisputed leader of Colorado’s defense, starting 28 consecutive games. He set the school’s all-time tackles mark for redshirt freshmen in 2015 with 96, and backed that up last season with 79 tackles.
Known more for his ability to dissect a play before it happens, and speed to get there, Gamboa should be in on a lot of stops in this game. The Huskies are hoping he whiffs on a few of them, too.
2. Huskies FS Taylor Rapp vs. Colorado QB Steven Montez
With news breaking from The Seattle Times late Friday that redshirt freshman cornerback Byron Murphy (leg) will be out a minimum of six weeks after suffering the injury in practice, who knows how the secondary wil shake out tonight.
Co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake has to rework the plan. Maybe that means Austin Joyner or one of the true freshmen move directly into Murphy’s outside cornerback spot. Maybe Myles Bryant shifts outside more.
Whatever the case may be, it likely means more shifting around for Rapp, who recorded two interceptions against this Buffaloes’ squad in last year’s Pac-12 title game.
Montez has just enough cockiness in his arm strength that he will take chances on passes. Rapp is one of the few guys fast enough in the conference that has the breaking speed to make him pay for it.
Same goes for a few designed quarterback runs.
3. Huskies PR Dante Pettis vs. Colorado punter Alex Kinney
Many eyes will be tuned in just to see if the talented UW wide receiver can make NCAA history tonight against the Buffaloes.
After last week’s 77-yard punt retun for a touchdown, Pettis has had a punt-return score in three consecutive games, tying an NCAA record shared with two other players.
There are a few things that might be working against Pettis in his quest for a fourth score: One, footballs normally fly at high-elevation Folsom Field; two, the playing surface is expecting to be a mess; and three, Kinney has had just two punts returned in three games.
Just a hunch, Colorado is going to be the first team NOT to punt anywhere near Pettis tonight. His ability to change a game is too much of a risk.