Dawgs Prepare for Bigger Things

Saturday's game against the struggling Colorado Buffaloes should be a statement game for Washington. Presented with the opportunity to improve to 5-1 before heading into the brutal part of the schedule, the statement they'd like to make should be obvious.

Actually, potentially several statements could be made on Saturday with a big win at home.

Number one, Washington will be a prohibitive favorite heading into the contest. Sometimes teams play differently when the target is on their backs as opposed to in front of them. It will be very interesting to see how the Huskies handle this type of pressure once again. They didn't handle it well at all in their season opener against the undermanned and underwhelming Eastern Washington Eagles.

Washington has the opportunity to show that they can put their foot down on the accelerator and play with reckless abandon, even when they are supposed to beat an inferior foe. That's called "winning the ones you should win."

I expect Washington to win by 20 in order to put the Eastern hangover firmly in the rear-view mirror, if it wasn't already. If the Dawgs can roll the Buffaloes out of Husky Stadium after opening a big ol' can of whoop ass on them, Steve Sarkisian will have established an identity for his young team - particularly coming on the heels of a Husky road win at Utah that was a second-half physical beating for the new kids on the BCS block.

Perhaps more importantly than making a statement, Washington has a chance to get their fifth win in six games. It would set the Huskies up with some terrific momentum heading into the most difficult stretch of their schedule – at Stanford, and then back home to face Arizona and Oregon, before hitting the road on consecutive weeks to Los Angeles (USC) and Corvallis (OSU)

Clearly it's a step up in competition, but should the Huskies stampede the Buffs on Saturday, they'd be riding a two-game winning streak, a 5-1 record, and a probable top-25 ranking as they enter the gauntlet. The Huskies would hit that stretch with confidence, knowing that they have the offense to compete with anyone and a defense that has shown major improvement since the Nebraska game.

A 5-1 Husky team should expect to win at least two of those remaining games, which would put them at a very respectable bowl-eligible 7-4 heading into the Apple Cup.

Every game on the schedule is important, but the CU game may be moreso; it sets the tone for the difficult part of the schedule, and it frankly is a game the Huskies should win.

If you win the games you should win and then are victorious in one or two that you are not expected to win, that will get you to a bowl game nearly every year. And in good years, it will get you to a conference championship game and a very good bowl.

I don't even want to think about the statement that would be made should the Huskies drop this game on Saturday.
Odds and ends…. Keith Price will be as healthy as he's been all year when he takes the field on Saturday. He has been an amazing quarterback to date, but he has only been about 60 percent. He has shown escapability in the pocket and his decision-making and accuracy have been uncanny. However...wait until you see what he can do with the added dimension of his running. Before he banged up his knees and ankle, Price showed some great quickness around the corner on keepers that were designed to get him in space. He was lethal, because defenses key on Chris Polk. Price at full speed will kill defenses after he breaks into the second tier…Jamaal Kearse is a welcome sight at linebacker. He has the size you like to see at the position and he has a real nose for the football. And once he finds the ball, he obviously knows what to do with it. I love this kid's hitting, his instincts, and his size. Jermaine's "little brother" is fitting in just fine, and he is helping the defense to define itself. As a redshirt freshman, he picked a great time to stand up and be counted. By next year, he will be 235 pounds of confident and experienced ball-hawking defender, capable of playing in coverage or coming at running backs and planting them into the turf. Watching his maturation this year is going to be fun….Making a bowl this year would be huge on many levels for Sark's program. If in his third year he is able to get his team to make back-to-back bowl games after inheriting a crap sandwich, it would cement him as one of the top young coaches in the country. That would be quite a feather into his already impressive recruiting cap. With the momentum of back-to-back bowl appearances, one of the best young quarterbacks in the country returning for two more seasons, and a brand new stadium coming in 2013, Sark would absolutely tear it up. Not to mention those extra 15 practices would mean the world. It is precisely those 15 practices the Huskies got to participate in before last year's Holiday Bowl that set the foundation for many of the young players this year. During the fall, scout teamers spend the majority of their time running the opposing team's schemes to help prepare the ones and twos for the game. It is during the bowl practices is when the younger players get to take actual reps in the depth and make their marks. That is where guys like Jamaal Kearse, Ben Riva, and Colin Tanigawa stand up and make the coaches take notice. Making a bowl this year is paramount to setting up what should be monster years in 2012 and 2013….. Two guys that look like they are about to break out and make their presence known are Sean Parker and Semisi Tokolahi. Parker is ready to assume the mantle of the next great Husky safety. He and Glenn look great together and Parker looked very impressive against Utah. He has 38 tackles and an interception through five games and I expect those numbers to trend upwards from here on out. Tokolahi is nearly 100 percent now and having him lining up next to Ta'amu made a huge difference against Utah. Washington's defense becomes extremely difficult to run against with those two inside and with Everrette Thompson moved back to his more natural end position. Tokolahi won't show up a great deal on the stat sheet but his presence inside will make the linebackers look better……Husky Stadium is nearing the end of an era. Savor each game left on the schedule. In its place will be a beautiful brand new shiny stadium that will be the crown jewel of Husky athletics, but let us not forget the fantastic memories the old girl has given us all of these years. Enjoy, savor, and most of all, be loud!

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