2007 Look Ahead: Washington

Coming off 1-11, Stanford can't exactly lick their chops at the prospect of facing many opponents this fall. The Cardinal did however handle the Huskies last November, improbably ending a 30-year drought in Seattle at the same time. Washington doesn't look to be improved in 2007, and the two teams will meet at Stanford. The Cardinal are looking good to extend their winning streak against UW.

Washington Huskies

First Down: Quick Hitters

Washington @ Stanford – November 3

Last Meeting: Stanford 20, Washington 3

Side-by-Side Stats: (Washington/Stanford)
Returning Offensive Starters: 6/8
2006 Points Per Game: 21.8/10.6
2006 Rushing Yards Per Game: 128/65
2006 Yards Per Carry: 3.8/2.1
2006 Passing Yards Per Game: 194/167
2006 Pass Completion Rate: 48.0/52.8
Returning Defensive Starters: 6/8
2006 Points Allowed Per Game: 25.9/31.4
2006 Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game: 140/211
2006 Yards Per Carry Allowed: 4.0/4.9
2006 Passing Yards Allowed Per Game: 240/177
2006 Pass Completion Percentage Allowed: 61.3/60.3
2006 Record: 5-7/1-11
2007 Projected Record: (3-10, 2-7)/(3-9, 2-7)
2007 Projected Pac-10 Finish: T-9th/T-9th

Second Down: Offense

This is a mid-level Pac-10 offense at best.  Its 20.7 points per Pac-10 tilt put it eighth in the league last year.  The Huskies will not crack the top half of that list this year, but with a wonderboy quarterback and some returning experience, they could climb a spot or two.

Last year's starter, Isaiah Stanback, is now with the Dallas Cowboys (fourth-round pick).  He went down in the Huskies' seventh game against Oregon State.  They were 4-2 heading in, with their only losses to Oklahoma and USC.  They finished just 1-5 down the stretch.

This year, the great hope is redshirt freshman Jake Locker, who, as Stanford recruitniks surely remember, was one of the nation's top quarterback recruits in his class.  He runs a 4.5 and posted a ridiculous 27-3 ratio his senior year.  Oregon transfer Johnny DuRocher had a brain tumor removed – so his standing with the team is obviously in doubt.  Senior Carl Bonnell started seven games last year, but after he completed just 44 percent of his passes in 2006, most Husky fans are hoping he is Locker's backup.

Sophomore tailback J.R. Hasty was academically ineligible last season, but should make an impact this season as the one-two punch with returning starter Louis Rankin (666 ground yards, 4.7 average in 2006).  The tailbacks may not get the chance to showcase their talent though, as last year's two best linemen, guards Stanley Daniels and Clay Waters, are done at Washington.  The other three starters do return, but one is sophomore left tackle Ben Ossai, so the Huskies figure to start three underclassmen on the line.  Locker is mobile and the tailbacks are some of the best athletes on the team, so the unit could have some time to gel.

The receiving corps loses its top target, Sonny Shackelford (Honorable Mention All Pac-10), but does return seniors Anthony Russo and Marcel Reece, who combined for 771 yards and three touchdowns last year.  Duke transfer Chancellor Young is now eligible, and walking punchline Marcel Reece (260 pounds as a wide receiver last year!) has slimmed down and presumably sped up.  Reece, a junior college transfer, has no shortage of natural ability, so both the transfers could make this group better than last year's, especially with more consistency at quarterback.

Third Down: Defense

Last year, this secondary was like Paris Hilton's good looks – its one redeeming quality.  This year though, the front seven should not be significantly better, and the back four loses its two stars.  Not a good omen.

In the back end, senior corner Roy Lewis, a San Jose State transfer, returns to starting duty, as does junior college transfer Jason Wells, a junior free safety.  But gone are First-Team All Pac-10 strong safety C.J. Wallace, the team's leading tackler, corner Dashon Goldson (NFL fourth-rounder, Honorable Mention All Pac-10), who held DeSean Jackson to a season-low 40 yards, and corner Matt Fountaine.  Even with all that talent, the need to run blitz to support a weak front seven (never a good sign when a safety leads the team in tackles) led to some awful passing numbers (240 aerial yards allowed per game on 61.3 percent accuracy).  What happens to the numbers this year, now that the front seven is no better and much of the top-tier talent is gone?

Up front, senior defensive end Greyson Gunheim is the sole standout.  He posted 44 tackles and six sacks on his way to All Pac-10 recognition last year.  The good news is the other starters from last year (end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, a sophomore, and senior tackles Jordan Reffett and Wilson Afoa) return.  That is also the bad news.  Washington, Stanford and Oregon were the only teams to allow league opponents over four yards per carry, so while the added experience may help against lower-level opponents, the big boys are still going to have too much talent for this undermanned front.

In the middle, gone are the team's number-two (Scott White) and four tacklers (Tahj Bomar).  The Huskies' other top-six tacklers were all in the secondary and of those six, only Lewis returns.  Senior Dan Howell is the one returning starter (only 35 tackles despite 10 starts at linebacker!).  Two sophomores, Donald Butler and E.J. Savannah, and two juniors, Chris Stevens and Trenton Tuiasosopo, are all pushing for playing time – whoever gets thrown in looks like they are going to learn about BCS-level football the hard way.

Unfortunately for the Huskies, this is one of the nation's deepest leagues, and the Huskies play arguably the nation's toughest out-of-conference schedule to boot.  Washington allowed 382 yards per Pac-10 game last year, dead last in the league.  This year may not be much better.

Fourth Down: Extra Points

Move over Stanford, Washington takes the cake for the Pac-10's toughest schedule.  The out-of-conference schedule: at Syracuse (not a great team, but one of the nation's toughest environments), Boise State, Ohio State and at Hawaii, this year's Boise State.  In the Pac-10, many of the winnable games are on the road, too (at UCLA, at Arizona State, at Stanford and at Oregon State).  I do not see the Huskies beating USC, Oregon or California at home, so that leaves just Arizona and Washington State as the winnable home games.

Washington's visit to Stanford does come in the middle of their three easiest weeks.  They host Arizona for homecoming the week previous, are in Palo Alto November 3 and visit Oregon State on November 10.

This might be the only Pac-10 game of the year where Stanford is an outright favorite.  Washington, traditionally a league power, has been nice to the Cardinal recently, last beating Stanford in 2003, in Seattle.

Coming off a 1-10 season in 2004 and a 2-9 season in 2005, the Huskies looked to be getting back on the right track early last fall.  They started 4-1, with their only loss to a nationally-ranked Oklahoma, and took USC right to the wire in Los Angeles the next week (time expired before they could get off a Hail Mary in one of the worst exhibits of time management in recent memory).  As happened for Oregon, the USC loss deflated the Huskies and really derailed their season – they lost six in a row, culminating in the 17-3 atrocity against Stanford, the worst game of college football I have ever seen.

Washington did take the Apple Cup the next week, but after finishing just 1-6 down the stretch, and likely starting this season no better than 1-6 (first seven weeks: at Syracuse, Boise State, Ohio State, at UCLA, USC, at Arizona State, Oregon – those teams should finish the season a combined .750), you have to wonder about Tyrone Willingham's job security and the team's morale.  New coaches are normally given three-year ropes, and a wheels-falling-off-the-bus two-, three- or four-win season might spell the end for Willingham.  The Huskies do have a talented roster, but given the strength of the Pac-10 and their schedule, I think that is what happens in Seattle.

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