If Connor Halliday or Jeff Tuel were playing in this game, I would probably pick it closer, or even the Cougs to win. That's not a major dig on Marshall Lobbestael. He's not a bad QB, he's just not as good as the other two. Tuel and Halliday have the ability to improvise with their feet to buy time in the pocket and make plays. Lobbestael doesn't have that skill.
Even then you wonder whether the UW pass rush will even get to him anyway. I wasn't one of those people that thought UW's defense had improved monumentally midseason. They maybe improved incrementally. The Huskies will give up yards and points. That's a given. But I think the Huskies will score also rack up yards and points.
This isn't the Cougs defense people remember from the last few years. It's better. But so is Washington's offense. If Sarkisian can find the run-pass balance needed, the Huskies should have no trouble moving the football. The worst thing the Huskies can be is one dimensional. And ideally, they would be a little more run heavy if possible.
Here's the matchup from today's paper.
Washington’s Keith Price isn’t 100 percent healthy. But then again, when has he been? Despite the sprains and bruises, he has still put together one of the best seasons in UW history. It will be the final game for WSU’s Marshall Lobbestael. He has played admirably this season when called upon. But fair or not, he’s not as good as Jeff Tuel, Connor Halliday or Price. Edge: Washington.
This is a no contest. Chris Polk will be the best player on the field today. A year ago, he decimated the Cougs for 284 yards on 29 carries. There isn’t a more complete back in the Pacific-12 Conference. WSU has two nice, smaller scatbacks in Rickey Galvin and Carl Winston, but even combined they can’t match Polk’s production. Edge: Washington.
Had Isiah Barton not torn his anterior cruciate ligament last week, the Cougs might have had the edge. They have one of the best receivers in the Pac-12 in Marquess Wilson, who is a 45-yard touchdown waiting to happen. UW has more depth and weapons, with tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins putting them over the top. Expect Kasen Williams to make a big play in this game. Edge: Washington.
Neither team has been particularly great up front. The Huskies have given up the most sacks in the Pac-12 this season with 33; the Cougs have allowed 30. Like most years, the Cougs have dealt with injuries, losing tackle Wade Jacobson for the season. But North Mason grad John Fullington has emerged as a solid player. After being healthy all season, UW lost starting guard Colin Tanigawa. Edge: Even.
The two teams rank near the bottom of the Pac-12 in sacks. UW has just 17 this season and has rotated players trying to find the right mix. The latest player to earn a start is massive defensive tackle Danny Shelton. WSU, which has 16 sacks, has a great defensive end in Travis Long. But he will see plenty of double teams, particularly with other defensive end Adam Coerper out with a knee injury. Edge: Even.
Washington has the leading tackler in the Pac-12 in middle linebacker Cort Dennison, who plays as hard as anyone in college football. But the Huskies have had all kinds of problems with their young outside linebackers. Meanwhile, the Cougs’ trio of Alex Hoffman-Ellis, C.J. Mizell and Chester Su’a along with Sekope Kaufusi, have been making plays all season. Edge: Washington State.
Neither unit has been particularly consistent. Washington is giving up 296 yards passing a game, last in the Pac-12. And it’s not just one facet. Teams throw short and throw deep, and get yards. The Cougs haven’t given up the total yards like UW but have been susceptible to big plays. WSU is starting three sophomores and a junior. Edge: Washington State.
UW has the edge with kicker Erik Folk, although he hasn’t been as consistent this season. UW’s Kevin Smith ranks third in the Pac-12, averaging 26.2 yards per kickoff return. He’s been on the verge of breaking one all season. Barton was WSU’s best kick returner, which hurts. Neither team has been particularly good in punt returns, but don’t be surprised if it comes down to Folk or WSU’s Andrew Furney to decide the game. Edge: Washington.
The weather is expected to be cold, with a chance of rain and wind, not conditions conducive to WSU’s passing attack. Will CenturyLink Field be the difference? WSU did play at CenturyLink this season, but it was one of the Cougs’ worst performances, a 44-21 loss to Oregon State. Edge: Even.