Yesterday, I played devil’s advocate and posted Five Reasons Why Boise State Should Win. Now, here are some of the most important reasons why Washington should triumph this Saturday at the new Husky Stadium.
1. His Most Excellent Bishop Sankey: I’ve mentioned several times that Husky fans shouldn’t let off season optimism lead them to totally forget how badly last season ended. Well, if that’s true, then Husky fans also shouldn’t forget how friggin amazingly Bishop Sankey was playing at the end of last year. Remember the Vegas Bowl? 30 carries for 206 yards and a score with a bonus 6 catches for 74 yards was enough to earn him MVP honors. In a LOSS. And excuse the cliche, but he really did make it look easy. Or at least like it was another day at the office. Woops, there’s another one. The offensive line is going to be much better after a healthy off season (I’ll get into that more below), and Sankey will still get 20 or more carries a day. If I were a gambling man, I’d set the over under at 1500 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, and I’d think long and hard about taking the over. And that’s bad news for the Broncos, especially considering that Sankey runs best against the best. His breakout game came in the win over Stanford via 144 hard-earned yards and a 61-yard score. Even in the terrible loss to Oregon, Sankey racked up 104 yards and two touchdowns. One of which was pretty beastly. And then there’s the aforementioned Vegas Bowl performance. He’ll likely do it again. And this time, at home and with a team returning almost every starter, it’s easy to see that 28-26 loss becoming a solid win for Washington.
2. Husky Stadium Will Be Full Of Huskies: Like 70,000 of them. Washington played very well at “home” last season, going 5-1 in Seattle, despite the fact that “home” was CenturyLink Stadium. None of those six home games were totally sold out, and only against Stanford and Oregon State did the crowd intensity belong in the same discussion as a typical game at Husky Stadium. But against Boise State, there will be a sell-out crowd (or at least within a few hundred) and it will be the opening of the fully renovated new Husky Stadium. Not only will that give a special significance to the game that is guaranteed to boost the crowd intensity into epic territories, the venue itself is altered in a way that will increase noise on the field. The field is raised four feet and the track is gone, replaced by closer seats. It’s going to be an extremely hostile environment for Boise State’s offense, and it should also have all of Washington’s players operating at the highest possible level.
3. I Actually Recognize All Five Offensive Line Starters: As opposed to last season when four out of five season opening starters on the offensive line were first-timers. This was perhaps Washington’s weakest position last season with so many young players thrown to the wolves out of necessity. Only center Drew Schaefer existed as a veteran presence. Now he’s graduated and all five starters have game-day experience. Left tackle Micah Hatchie (Jr.), left guard Dexter Charles (So.), center Mike Criste (Jr.), and right tackle Ben Riva (Jr.) were among those rushed into starting in ’12. Now they have enjoyed the benefits of an entire season of starting experience and an entire additional off season. Right guard Colin Tanigawa (Jr.) is among those veterans that was expected to start in the spring of 2012 before being lost to injury. He rounds out a starting five that looks healthy and cohesive. It remains to be seen how much they will have improved their pass-blocking, but will be better, and the solid depth across the whole line will be instrumental in implementing Coach Sark’s new no-huddle offense.
4. Boise State Is Very Inexperienced At Corner: The most impressive thing about Boise State in 2012 was pass defense. They only allowed four passing touchdowns all season long! But now four of the top six corners on the depth chart have never played a game for the Broncos. According to Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Statesman, they will be playing all six in an effort to truly identify starters going forward. Boise State’s safeties and pass rush also contributed greatly to the team’s success in defending the pass, but inexperience at corner should really benefit Washington’s Keith Price and his fairly deep corps of wide receivers.
5. UW’s Defensive Playmakers: Specifically, linebacker Shaq Thompson (So.), safety Sean Parker (Sr.), and cornerback Marcus Peters (So.). Shaq sacked the QB twice, picked off three passes, and recovered a fumble. He was a true freshman, now he’s one year older and that should frighten folks in Boise. Sean Parker picked off two passes and forced three fumbles, including that bone-jarring hit to Markus Wheaton that popped the ball right into Justin Glenn’s hands. I’m not totally sold on Marcus Peters as a number one corner yet, as he was not always consistent in his pass coverage, but he did consistently make plays on the ball. Despite starting the year outside of the starting lineup and beneath Tre Watson on the depth chart, Peters picked off three passes and returned one for a touchdown. I believe every single player will match or exceed those key numbers in 2013, and I have confidence that Coach Wilcox will have those three in the right position to make plays on the ball August 31st.