Keys to Victory: LSU

Without a doubt the Washington Huskies are in tough for their opener against LSU Saturday night at Husky Stadium. Based upon recent history they are given no chance at all to win this game, but they are not thinking that way. I have never known a player or coach who didn't believe they were going to win the next game. That is the reality, as well as the object of the game; to win.

To doubt yourself and your team is not only disloyal to the cause but also self-defeating. You will never win unless you believe you will.

I believe in the new system and I believe in this group of kids. I believe in how they do things and I believe they will win. But what I believe unfortunately has nothing to do with the final outcome. Still, having been in the game most of my life, I cannot allow myself to contemplate - much less worry - about them losing. Consequently, I will always pick them to win.

I have watched 10 practices this fall, as well as the majority of those held in the spring and firmly believe that this team is in better physical shape than they have been in a decade. They run more in practice, and were better conditioned before they even started. They are also stronger, but not necessarily bigger. Their strength and conditioning alone will give them a much better chance of winning, especially if things are tight going into the fourth quarter.

They will not be bigger than LSU. They will not be faster than LSU. The Tigers feature 11 players on national watch lists and come into Husky Stadium as a huge favorite. They are indeed a formidable opponent, but none of that matters if you simply beat them on the scoreboard (I'll take a one-point victory).

To win this game the Huskies will have to be able to win the running game on both sides of the ball. They need to be able to run the football, and they need to force LSU to put the ball in the air as much as possible. Considering the Tigers have an NFL-size backfield, it's going to be tough to stop them from dominating that part of the game. Charles Scott is a 235-pound tailback with a 270 fullback in front of him. That is big.

Their quarterback, Jordan Jefferson, is likewise 6-foot-5 and 220-pounds. He's big and he does like to run out of their spread option attack. Stopping the run is first and foremost for the defense. I believe if Washington out-rushes LSU, they will win this game. The last time the Huskies beat a ranked opponent at home was Boise State two years ago. They held the Broncos to 103 yards on the ground. That's what they need to do against the Tigers.

If Washington can break even in the kicking game, that will also help. But if they win the kicking game, they will win the game. Considering that there will be so many new specialists on the field for both teams means there is an unknown factor in the kicking game. What is known is the Tigers feature a diminutive returner in Trindon Holliday who, although only 5-foot-5 and 165 pounds, is one of the fastest men in America. Containing him on kickoffs and punts will be critical to winning this game. Meanwhile, the Huskies' kicker, Erik Folk needs to perform with precision on all his attempts. He must nail all his field goal attempts as well as extra points because it will most likely be a close game for the Huskies to win. He made all four of his field goal attempts during UW's final practice Thursday, and that was very encouraging to see.

The third key to victory is win the turnover battle. That is an absolute must. The Huskies have to create some fumbles. If they can make a big play, like return an interception for a touchdown, that would be a bonus. But they have to protect the ball themselves. If they do that, it will really enhance their chances of staying close when crunch time comes.

I know this is a tough opener and I know they are considerable underdogs, but if the Huskies can just keep moving the chains and somehow get themselves into the fourth quarter then they have a chance to shock the nation and win this game. As unlikely as it seems there is still a chance and that is why they play the games.

The team with the best players doesn't always win. The team that takes advantage of situations and handles the adversity usually comes out on top. The Huskies are nothing like the team people saw last year, when they easily left three league wins on the table, as well as a controversial loss to then No. 15 BYU at home. Remember that LSU only won three league games themselves last season, while losing five. They have a lot to prove, and I expect they are considering the Huskies to be the toughest of their non-conference opponents - which feature other monsters like UL-Lafayette and Tulane.

I pick Washington to win this game and I know that is no surprise. For those expecting to see the same Huskies from last year will be in for a surprise. This will be one of the greatest wins ever for this program. If it doesn't happen, then so what? Nobody expects them to win besides themselves, so why hold back?

It's a no-lose situation. And that adds up to a win for the Huskies.

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