I have not picked well this season, at least as far as the Huskies are concerned. During their recent slide, after each loss I would look at the next game and think “well, I think they have it in them to make this one happen.” Turns out I have been wrong. I was wrong to predict they would defeat USC. I was even wrong to say they would beat Arizona. As you know, not only did they fail to beat the Wildcats, they were blown out 52-17. So now as I try to predict tomorrow’s game against Oregon State, excuse me if I don’t have a whole lot of faith in Washington’s ability to win.
That being said, things are decidedly different this week. A loss here pretty much means that the season will be considered a failure in the eyes of just about everyone watching, even if the Huskies manage to close out the year with four straight wins against bad teams. #Firesark has started up on twitter. The fanbase is starting to realize that Price may never recover his 2011 form. This team is backed up against a wall, and they have a chance to come out in front of a home crowd, on their home field, to defend their coach and their program. The only problem is that this isn’t Friday Night Lights. Oregon State is a damn good football team. They can’t be swept aside as a typecast villain in Washington’s glorious defense of the season, and they can’t be defeated based on pure desire. Coach Sark’s team will have to execute, both on offense and defense to leave the field victorious, and that’s something they have not done in weeks.
On offense, Price has been mostly useless. When he drops back to pass, I don’t expect completions, I’m too busy cringing and whispering “don’t fumble, don’t fumble.” His offensive line has given him very little help, and though they looked to be making progress midway through the season, they performed terrible at Arizona. That pretty much leaves Bishop Sankey to try to grind out first downs behind a fairly average run blocking unit. Considering that Oregon State only allows opponents to score 16.5 points a game, that seems like a recipe for roughly 10-17 points. That won’t get it done, not with Washington’s defense looking so broken last week. So something has to change, either Price has to turn things around suddenly, or Sankey has to put the team on his back in a way that can’t be expected or necessarily predicted. Also worth noting that Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been an absolute monster the past few weeks, even with Price and the offense struggling so much. Unfortunately, that individual success hasn’t led to success for the team as a whole.
Sean Mannion is back, and though it can never be assumed that a player returning from injury will instantly return to pre-injury levels, that is a fairly scary thought for the Huskies. Mannion has been fairly streaky, even inconsistent, at times this year, but he has also shown an ability to put up video game numbers. Storm Woods, the Beavers’ starting back, compliments him well and keeps the defenses honest about defending the run. We know what OSU brings to the table, but at this point, we do not have any clue what kind of Husky defense will show up tomorrow. Will it be the unit that has allowed only 15.5 points a game at home? Maybe, with this game being played in Seattle, but it’s tough to ignore the 52 points allowed last week to a 3-3 Arizona team.
Personally, I’m thinking Wilcox and Co will be able to control, if not totally shut down, Mannion’s attack. At home, we have not seen this team play at anything less than an above average level defensively. USC only scored 24, despite having the most talented quarterback in the conference and the best wide receiver duo in the country, and Stanford didn’t manage an offensive touchdown. Unfortunately, even if Oregon State is kept well below 30 points, I just have no confidence that the Huskies will manage to score anywhere near that many. I won’t be shocked if I’m wrong, and this team really makes a statement out on the field, but there has been too much inconsistency for me to feel anywhere near comfortable predicting that sort of turnaround.
Oregon State 27, Washington 17