Editor’s Note: This is the first post from new staffer Eric Nelson. Enjoy.
In a handful of days the Washington Huskies open their season in their new home stadium with a night game against the Boise State Broncos. These are the keys to the game for the Huskies:
Pass Rush – Boise State’s offense will most likely rely mainly on the pass in this game. This is because they are breaking in a new starting RB, they only return 2 of 5 starters on the offensive line from 2012, and the Washington linebacking corps is one of the best in the country. Not a good matchup for the Broncos in the running game. In the passing game, The Broncos return their starting QB, a key target from 2012 in Matt Miller, and their receiving corps are big: they have a trio of receivers over 6’2″. This matches up well for them, as we only have 2 returning starters in our secondary, and both of our starting corners are under 6 feet. Boise State has good receivers and a good QB, they are going to make plays in the passing game. How well our secondary holds up relies a lot on our pass rush. If the D-line can’t get to Southwick, he can sit back and pick apart our defense, because he is better than everyone thinks he is, and Chris Petersen is a genius. However, if Shelton, Littleton and the Hudsons can keep pressure on Southwick, he will make mistakes, the Broncos will never get into an offensive rhythm and the Broncos will end up scoring less than 20 points.
Keith Price – Yes, it may be overstated, but this season hinges on how well Price plays. If he plays like he did in 2011, it could be a special year in Seattle. If he plays like he did in 2012, Sarkisian might find himself out of a job. There are quite a few games this year that could be decided by only a handful of points, and Boise State is one of those games. Every play matters and your quarterback touches the ball on every offensive play. Price played just okay in the Las Vegas bowl, outside of a couple interceptions, but he wasn’t as good as his potential. Part of his struggles were due to the very banged up offensive line, but another part of it was that he just lost confidence. Price has unbelievable potential, but he has to live up to it for the Huskies to have a good season. He has all the tools in place. Experienced offensive line, a workhorse tailback, All American tight end, great number one wide receiver and good depth everywhere. Price can have that hyped year he was expected to have going into 2012, the Heisman dark-horse kind of season. It’s whether he can get over his own mental block that decides what kind of season he will have, and that in turn will decide lots of close games, one of them likely being against Boise State.
The Kicking Game – The apple cup perhaps wasn’t the only game we lost because of a missed field goal. In the Las Vegas Bowl last year, in the second half, Coons missed a 41 yard field goal early in the fourth quarter that would have given Washington a 26-25 lead. Does that necessarily mean the game would have played out exactly the same and Washington would have won 29-28? No, but it would have changed the game, and possibly produced a different outcome. This year Coons is still the starting Kicker, holding off true freshman Van Winkle for the job. However, most Husky fans are not convinced he can get it done. How he does in the first game not only could be the margin between a victory and a defeat against the Broncos, but it will set the tone for his year. If he does well, we can trust him to make big kicks in big situations. If not, we might later down the road be going for it on fourth and 11 from the twenty yard line. Last year, the Broncos won by less than a field goal. This year, it could very well be a similar margin of victory, and Coons could be the difference, for better or for worse.
How Big of an Advantage is Husky Stadium? – Everyone knows about the new stadium. Everyone knows it will be really cool, have a stunning view and have better seating. It is also known that it will be loud. The question is, how loud? Is it the type of loud that is heard in almost every other Pac-12 venue? Or is it the type of loud that produces false starts, miscues, frustration, tentativeness, and flat out fear of taking the field on the offensive side of the ball? Old Husky Stadium was loud. Actually, it was the loudest ever (Nebraska game 1992 – 133.6 decibels). The new stadium actually will be louder because of the closer proximity of the stands to the field, the installation of steel stands where the wood stands used to be in the bowl, and the field height being raised four feet. The home field advantage could especially help us against Boise State because I would bet my tuition money that Boise State has never been in an environment even close to as hostile as this one. In a season opening game, at night, in a new stadium, with the most talented Husky team in over a decade, the place is going to be absolutely ridiculous. Is it enough of an advantage to push the Dawgs to victory? I guess we’ll have to see on Saturday.