Before this Saturday’s big showdown against #5 Washington, our friends over at UW Dawg Pound were kind enough to exchange some “questions and answers” previewing the Beavers’ upcoming opponent. You can now learn about Washington from the guys that know them best, as we continue to break down Saturday’s match-up against the Huskies.
1. In Washington’s last game, the Huskies completely dismantled Oregon by 49 points on the road in Eugene. This week, they currently sit as 36 point favorites over Oregon State. Could you give me one reason why you think the Huskies will and one reason why you think the Huskies won’t cover the spread on Saturday?
UWDP: Let’s start with why they won’t. This is the Pac-12 conference, and you don’t just throttle teams by five touchdowns every week. Even if Washington is fortunate enough to build a big lead, Chris Petersen has no interest in running up the score on anyone, so the backups would need to perform like they did two weeks ago against the Ducks (who’s combination of sucking and quitting was pretty shocking). If Washington scores 52, Oregon State would only need to tally 16 points to match the spread.
Why they will? I’ll keep this simple. Washington is pretty damn good and the Beavers are not (yet).
2. Quarterback Jake Browning has obviously been the focal point of so much of the Huskies’ success this season, specifically in reference to Washington’s visibility on the national scene. What is it specifically about Browning’s game that solidifies him as one of the top players in all of college football?
UWDP: With Jake Browning, it begins with what he has between the ears. He reads defenses exceptionally well, and most of the time he knows what he is going to do before the ball is snapped and is able to execute his plan before the defense has time to react. Chris Petersen loves quarterbacks that can throw with anticipation, and Browning does that as well as any quarterback in the country. His arm strength is average, but he puts the ball where it needs to be. You hear the expression “throwing on time” and that is Jake Browning, often letting it rip before his receiver is out of his break. He is only an average athlete, but somehow, some way, he is often able to escape the pocket when pressured and keep his eyes down field. Browning scrambles to throw, not to run, but he can be a very effective ball carrier when he needs to. The guy just continues to impress every week.
3. Head coach Chris Petersen is in his third season with the Huskies and through his first two years, Washington was a combined 15-12 (8-10 in the Pac-12). Petersen had already strongly established himself as one of college football’s elite coaches from his days at Boise State, but what has been the difference this season from a coaching standpoint, that’s made those past two seasons feel like a distant memory for the Huskies?
UWDP: It was quite a drastic change in coaching philosophies when Petersen took over for Steve Sarkisian three years ago. While Sark was restocking the program with talented players, he didn’t seem too concerned about what types of personalities were attached to that talent. Petersen recruits what he calls OKGs (our kinda guys). The changeover in coaches meant some players were not going to fit in with the new regime, most notably cornerback Marcus Peters who was first suspended and later dismissed from the team despite being one of the best players on the roster. Peters was the eighth player dismissed or suspended during Petersen’s first year.
The team is now Petersen’s with even the Sarkisian leftovers buying in to his team-first coaching philosophy. That — combined with some very good recruiting classes made up of Petersen’s “kinda guys” -- has led to a breakthrough season for the Huskies.
4. The Huskies still have some tough games left on their schedule, including road trips to Utah, California and Washington State. Obviously, the Cougars are always a match-up that is circled on both team’s calendars but what game left on the Huskies’ slate is the one that seems that has the greatest potential to derail Washington’s standout season?
UWDP: This is a strange season in the Pac-12, with lots of teams playing pretty average football. From a pure talent standpoint, the USC game in Seattle will be the most challenging. I feel like it is really tough to win without great quarterback play, and the teams that boast good QBs are USC and Washington State. Davis Webb from California has been hot and cold, but if he is on, add him to the list. The game I am personally most concerned about is the Apple Cup against WSU. The Washington schools have a history of destroying each other’s dreams.
Oh, and for good measure, the Chris Petersen answer: We’re most concerned about Oregon State. It would obviously be foolish to overlook the Beavers; they have Pac-12 talent on their roster and a very good coach.
5. While the offense for Washington gets a lot of the love due to some of the big names across the board, the defense for the Huskies has been just as good, averaging 14.2 points against per game (7th best nationally). Who are some of the key players on the Huskies’ defense who are expected to have a strong impact against Oregon State?
UWDP: There are a lot of really good players on Washington’s defense. Up front, three defensive tackles are having All Pac-12 caliber seasons. Vita Vea is the biggest, Greg Gaines is the most disruptive, and Elijah Qualls is the most versatile. All three of them absorb blockers and make plays in the backfield. The linebacking corps features two outstanding inside linebackers in Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria. The secondary is led by All-American safety Budda Baker and All Pac-12 first teamer Sidney Jones. Other players likely to receive some sort of post-season accolades are cornerback Kevin King and pass rushing end Joe Mathis.
6. Earlier this season, in one of his infamous rants, Washington State head coach Mike Leach referred to his team as “the easiest team in the country to tackle”. If you were to describe this Washington team in a single sentence, what would you refer to them as?
The Huskies play with surgical precision and are violently disruptive.