I've gone back and forth on this all week. If you listen to listen to people who cover and follow Nebraska, they don't have much good to say. Meanwhile, if you follow the Huskies it's all sunshine gumdrops and rainbows. What's odd is that Nebraska won by 33 and 13 points, while Washington won by three against an FCS team that's about to fall to 0-3 today (Go Griz!) and by eight against Hawaii.
So it's hard to know who is right in this situation.
I have serious reservations about picking the Huskies with their safety situation. And it's not because of the pass defense, it's the run support. Nate Fellner may make some plays and decisions that make Husky fans want to choke on their smoked salmon, but he's more experienced. They really only have Justin Glenn at free safety. He will be the last line of defense if Rex Burkhead or Taylor Martinez breaks a big run. He can't be late or wrong on his tackling angle or else its six points. We saw it happen to a senior in Nate Williams last year in Seattle.
The Huskies also have not faced a defense as physical as the Huskers yet this season. Against Eastern, they were able to neutralize Renard Williams by double teaming him most of the game. They can't to that against Nebraska's D tackles, both Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler. If you double one, the other is going to cause problems. And don't forget about defensive end Cameron Meredith, who gave them problems last season.
We talked earlier in the week about the matchup between the Huskers DBs andn the Huskies reiceivers. Alfonzo Dennard is suited up and looks like he will play. Washington can't expect Keith Price to throw for 315 yards and four touchdowns last week. It doesn't seem likely. For UW to have a chance, they need to control the ball and the clock with Chris Polk. That's how they beat Nebraska last season.
In the end, I just think a healthy Martinez will be too much for Washington to handle. It won't be as lopsided as the loss to Nebraska at Husky Stadium. But a late touchdown will make this look worse than it really was. But the Huskies will cover the 17 point spread.
Here's the opponent box from today's paper with my pick ...
WASHINGTON (2-0) AT NEBRASKA (2-0)Kickoff: 12:30 p.m., Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.
TV: Channel 4. Radio: 950-AM, 850-AM.
The series: The teams have played nine times, with the series tied at 4-4-1. This will be the third meeting between the two teams in the past 12 months. Nebraska came to Husky Stadium last September and walloped Washington, 56-21. But the Huskies got a little revenge, beating the Huskers in the Holiday Bowl, 19-7.
What to watch: Everyone says that Nebraska wasn’t interested in playing in the Holiday Bowl, hence the reason for the Huskies’ win in San Diego. Washington players shake off such a notion. But it’s safe to say, there will be no question as to whether Nebraska plays hard today. It’s not just because of the bowl game. The Cornhuskers have been less than dominant in their first two wins of the season. Head coach Bo Pelini hasn’t been pleased with how they’ve played, and he’s let his team know it. Washington will be playing its first road game of the season, and it’s in one of the toughest, loudest venues in all of college football. How players such as John Timu, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Colin Tanigawa, even quarterback Keith Price react to the situation is uncertain. The Huskies’ tormented secondary gets a brief reprieve playing Nebraska’s option-based running attack. But that doesn’t mean it gets easier. Everyone is aware of what quarterback Taylor Martinez did to Washington at Husky Stadium (137 yards rushing, 3 TDs). He’s healthy again and even more dangerous. As a passing threat, he’s still about average. But with UW likely focusing on stopping the run, the few passes thrown will be against single coverage. The Huskies showed a balanced attack against Hawaii, but they will need Chris Polk to replicate his Holiday Bowl heroics (177 yards rushing) to control the ball and keep Nebraska off the field.
What’s at stake: A win would likely vault the Huskies into the top 25 and make them 3-0 for the first time since 2001. Nebraska has legitimate BCS bowl hopes and figures to be one of the powers in the Big Ten. A loss at home would hurt those chances and emphasize the problems that the Huskers have shown in the first two games.
The pick: Nebraska, 31-17.