First Down: Quick Hitters
Stanford @ Washington – Sept. 27
Last Year: Washington 27, Stanford 9
Stats listed Opponent/Stanford/Pac-10 Average. All stats Pac-10 only to control for differences in out-of-conference schedule strength.
Yards Per Game: 399/297/382
Points Per Game: 30.2/16.4/26.7
Rushing Yards Per Game: 203/79/144
Yards Per Carry: 4.8/2.3/3.7
Passing Yards Per Game: 191/218/238
Yards Per Pass: 6.3/5.9/6.7
Returning Offensive Starters: 7/7/6
Yards Per Game: 465/473/382
Points Per Game: 35.7/31.1/26.7
Rushing Yards Per Game: 215/193/144
Yards Per Carry: 5.4/4.7/3.7
Passing Yards Per Game: 250/280/238
Yards Per Pass: 7.4/7.8/6.7
Returning Defensive Starters: 6/9/6.3
2007 Record: (4-9, 2-7)/(4-8, 3-6)
2008 Predicted Points Per Game: 25/23/26.4
2008 Predicted Points Allowed Per Game: 33/28/26.4
2008 Projected Record: (3-9, 2-7)/(3-9, 2-7)
2008 Projected Pac-10 Finish: 10th/9th
Second Down: Offense
Joe Fan who picks Jake Locker to his All-Pac-10 team is seriously misguided. Yes, he can run, and yes, he was just a true frosh, but consider:
1. Only Tavita Pritchard had a worse QB rating than Locker in the Pac-10 last year. Pritchard, and the two quarterbacks just ahead of Locker in QB rating, Oregon State's Sean Canfield and Cal's Nate Longshore, are all in battles just to hang on to their starting jobs. I certainly don't see them on too many Preseason All-Pac-10 lists.
2. Locker was the only Pac-10 quarterback to misfire on more passes than he completed. He ended the season with 47.3 percent accuracy overall, and a truly atrocious 43 percent in-conference. Locker is one for lofty goals, telling The Seattle Times this past week he hopes to complete 65 percent of his passes this season, an 18 percent boost. Hope springs eternal.
3. Locker was one of only three Pac-10 QBs to throw more picks (15) than scores (14).
Unsurprisingly then, Washington's overall passing yardage and efficiency was near the bottom of the conference. (At press time, Locker was day-to-day with a hamstring pull.)
Between a dead-cat bounce and Locker's rise to the sophomore class, he should improve his passing stats this year. (Although a starting receiver trio of myself, my father and my brother has nearly as much Pac-10 experience as Washington's corps – more on that in a minute.) But right now, at least statistically, he's closer to Wayne Younger, Florida International's backup quarterback, than Vince Young.
Despite Locker's passing struggles, Washington posted its highest point total in five years, and actually outscored USC in the Pac-10 last year. Why? An insanely good 203 rush yards per game, on 4.9 yards per carry. Certainly, Locker, who ran for 986 yards and 13 scores, deserves credit. (And certainly, in the interest of fairness, his legs bring a dimension offensively that few other Pac-10 quarterbacks can match.) Much of it is also a function of an offensive playbook designed to exploit a mobile QB's legs – look at West Virginia's 6.2 yards per carry last year, Illinois' 5.7 or Arkansas' 6.0. But a lot of the credit goes to a conventional, between-the-tackles runner who quietly was the Pac-10's most underrated back, especially now that everyone gave that title to Yvenson Bernard.
2007 senior Louis Rankin ran for 1,294 yards on 5.6 per carry, and Stanford fans should know – he torched the Cardinal for 255 yards last year. This year, in a significant dropoff, Brandon Johnson looks to try to fill Rankin's shoes. Johnson is a true sophomore who ran for just 198 yards last year, and was not an uber-elite recruit out of high school. Junior JR Hasty and true frosh like Demetrius Bronson (if academically eligible) could also figure into the mix, but Rankin's absence, and the lack of quality depth in his void, could cost Washington in close games.
Washington, unbelievably, has not had a First Team All-Conference offensive lineman since 2001. Center Juan Garcia had a decent shot, after turning down the NFL to return for his senior season, but an injury in the spring leaves him questionable for the 2008 season.
Four starters do return, however, and junior Paul Homer is the Huskies' Owen Marecic, one of the best blocking fullbacks you've never heard of. Last year's line deserves credit for Washington's superb rushing yardage, and allowing fewer than two sacks per game. With all the returnees, this year's line should only be stronger.
However, the numbers may not reflect that, because receiver, just like tailback,is a question. Seven of last year's top eight receivers are gone, with the only returnee senior tight end Michael Gottlieb. Big things are expected out of true frosh Chris Polk, a USC commit originally who's been on campus since spring. However, the rest of the three-deep is entirely freshmen and sophomores, none of them as highly-touted as Polk. The cornucopia of youth may serve Washington well in 2010, but right now, the Huskies' receivers could be the league's worst.
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