This seemed like an easy pick to me. Yes, UW struggled last year against Eastern Washington. Yes, Stanford looked sluggish last night in a win over San Jose State. Yes, we really have no idea if the Husky defense is significantly better than last season.
But here is why the Huskies win this season opener in a much easier fashion than last year's scare against Eastern Washington.
1. Keith Price is back. Last year, Price was an unknown quantity. Head coach Steve Sarkisian admitted that he was a little too conservative with the play calling last year, trying not to overwhelm Price in just his second career start. There were also the debuts of Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams. This year there won't be any training wheels on the offense. Sarkisian can call what he wants, when he wants.
2. San Diego State is an offense in flux. Sure Ryan Katz has experience. But he doesn't have legitimate game experience with the Azteccs. Watch games with new quarterbacks after longtime starters have moved on, there is always a period of adjustment. We saw it with Stanford, Boise State, Michigan State.
3. The Huskies are better defensively. I have no empirical game proof, but I believe from what I've seen in the fall that this defense will be better than last year. Obviously, that's not a difficult achievement. But it's necessary. I expect with this style of defense that UW forces more turnovers than last season.
I really just think that enough guys from last season's debacle remember what happened and will keep that in mind when they take the field. The game will be competitive early, but Price will hit a couple of touchdown passes coming out of halftime to help UW pull away.
From the paper ....
SAN DIEGO STATE AT WASHINGTON
7:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: 950-AM, 850-AM, 102.9-FM
The series: The two teams have met twice, and Washington is 2-0. The first meeting came in 1982, when then-No. 1-ranked Washington defeated SDSU, 46-25, at Husky Stadium. The most recent meeting came in 1997, when the Huskies, ranked No. 2, defeated the Aztecs, 36-3.
What to watch: All eyes will be focused on Washington’s defense under a revamped staff led by defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. For the Huskies to improve, the defense needs to play better. So far all signs indicate that it should be better. The Huskies have shifted personnel, changed attitudes and brought in a new scheme. In particular, watch for the overall speed of the defense. By moving John Timu to middle linebacker, Travis Feeney to outside linebacker and inserting Shaq Thompson at the nickel back, the Huskies will be faster than any defense they’ve had under fourth-year coach Steve Sarkisian. Thompson has the potential to be a game-changing player for the defense. Timu has had such a good fall camp he was named team captain as a sophomore. Offensively, the Huskies will begin life after Chris Polk. Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey will get carries at running back, but play attention to who has better success running between the tackles. That player may be the one who gets more carries in the future. San Diego State plays a 3-3-5 defense that presents problems as players line up all over and shift before the ball snaps. Center Drew Schaefer and quarterback Keith Price will be in charge of checks and audibles based on that pre-snap movement.
What’s at stake: The Huskies want to get off to a good start this season with a win. It makes it more important with LSU looming next week. With a new defensive staff and a revamped scheme and attitude, having some early success defensively would be ideal.
The pick: Washington, 35-17