Coming off the bye last weekend, the Huskies look to flirt with the Top 25 rankings with a win this weekend over Colorado. Yet they will be battling a little rust as they haven’t played in two weeks. While the Buffaloes are 1-5, they could easily be 3-3 with wins over Washington State (blew it at the end) and California (lost in OT). At the same time, Colorado got absolutely destroyed by Stanford. On the other hand, who hasn’t? Crap, this game is so hard to grasp!
Let’s take a look at Colorado. They are 11th or 12th in the Pac-12 in multiple categories including scoring defense (33.3), total offense (349.3 yards/game), rushing offense (94.5 yards/game), scoring offense (21.5), sacks allowed (2.67 per game), penalty yardage (81.7/game), and third down conversions (34.1%). That is a wide variety of suckage! UW needs to win this game. They should win this game. So how will they do it?
Key Positional Battles
Colorado Pass Rush vs. Washington Offensive Line
There is something that Colorado does well apparently. Nope, it isn’t doing the Buffalo stance. Sorry Nenah Cherry.
It is sacking the quarterback. The Buffs enter this game with 17 sacks, tied with Stanford for the Pac-12 lead. Linebacker Josh Hartigan leads Colorado with four sacks and has five tackles for loss overall. Sophomore defensive lineman Chidera Uzo-Diribe has recorded 3.5, while linebacker Douglas Rippy has 2.5 of his own. Of course against Stanford in their huge loss, the Buffs didn’t record one sack at all. It will be imperative that the Dawgs can protect Keith Price and give him time to throw in this match up. Not only will it neutralize a strength of the Buffs, it will give Price the chance to exploit one of Colorado’s biggest weaknesses: their defensive backs.
Colorado DBs vs. Washington Passing Game
Colorado starts a true freshman in Greg Henderson and a sophomore in Terrel Smith due to suspensions and injuries. They are really decimated in the defensive backfield. It is to the point that Jason Espinoza converted from running back just two weeks ago and is listed as a back up cornerback. Price should be able to take advantage all day long considering he is second in the conference in quarterback rating and has plenty of targets even if freshman Kasen Williams sits out.
Washington DBs vs. Colorado Passing Game
The best part to Colorado’s attack, either offensively or defensively, starts with senior quarterback Tyler Hansen. He has thrown for 12 touchdowns to only three interceptions with 254 yards per game. While his QB rating stands only ninth in the Pac-12 at 136.08, clearly the Huskies will need to be better. The second half of the Utah game showed the upside of the Husky DBs, but they still sit at last in the Pac-12 in pass defense.
Keys for UW
1. Contain Rodney Stewart
Even though Tyler Hansen may be the most talented player on Colorado to be a threat in this game (with WR Paul Richardson out most likely), Stewart may be more of a key. After a couple games in which he struggled to open the season, Stewart put up over five yards per carry in three straight games including a win over Colorado State. This included a 132 yard performance against the Cougs. Yet Stewart’s biggest strength may be as a pass receiver for Hansen. He has 26 catches on the season for over 16 yards per catch including a big 76 yard catch versus Stanford. With the Dawgs having young outside linebackers who may be matched with Stewart in coverage, containing the versatile Stewart will be essential.
2. Establish Chris Polk
It would be very easy for the Dawgs to look at the inexperience and youth in the Buffalo secondary and just chuck the ball down the field. And they might even have some early success doing it. But they shouldn’t. When the Huskies give the ball to Chris Polk, good things happen. He absolutely destroyed the Utah Utes in the second half and has 611 yards, good for second in the conference. With Polk running the ball, Washington will control the time of possession and keep Hansen off the field. This can only lead to early success and thus a better chance of running away (pun intended) with this game.
3. Get Up Early
Washington is favored by two touchdowns at home which is its biggest spread over a FBS team since the Wazzu game in 2009. Colorado is battling injuries, suspensions and a lack of confidence entering this match up in Seattle. If the Dawgs can get up by two or three touchdowns in the first half, I believe Colorado just might roll over and quit. They don’t have a lot of reasons to believe this season and the Dawgs don’t need to give them any on Saturday.
Player to Watch
Tyler Hansen, Colorado
Without Paul Richardson in this match up, Hansen will need to find some new targets. His running back Rodney Stewart is the second leading receiver behind Richardson, but the Buffaloes won’t move the ball much if they continually check down on each passing play. Wide receiver Toney Clemons has 14 catches, while tight end Ryan Deehan has 12 grabs. No one else is close to double digits. Hansen will need to play at a very high level to keep Colorado in the game. Lucky for him, he is facing the worst Pac-12 defensive backfield statistically speaking.