Oct 27, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian calls a play against the Oregon State Beavers during the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Huskies Football: UW Faces Road Test Against Illinois

Aug 31, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Keith Price (17) celebrates with Washington Huskies running back Bishop Sankey (25) after Sankey ran the ball in for a touchdown against the Boise State Broncos during the 2nd half at Husky Stadium. Washington defeated Boise State 38-6. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

While it would be blogger suicide to outwardly predict that UW would physically dominate BSU in every facet of the game – if it went badly, I would never hear the end of it – I never for a second felt like UW wasn’t better than BSU. I had no doubt the Huskies would win, and do it handily.

The circumstances were perfect – shiny new stadium, shiny new offense, (hopefully) shiny old version of our quarterback all on display to a national audience. There was no way UW wasn’t winning that game. The thorough wood shed style beating was just an added bonus.

Now though, it’s time to show how real the Huskies are. Getting fired up for your first home game of the year in a new building isn’t difficult. What happens when the spectacle that was is no longer? It only took two weeks, but Steve Sarkisian and his team are looking at a critical situation in Chicago on Saturday. I realize Illinois is 2-0 and they have put up gaudy offensive numbers, but let’s put it in perspective. They beat Southern Illinois by eight points at home. They then “stunned” Cincinnati on Saturday, 45-17, but that ain’t exactly Brian Kelly’s Cincinnati team over there.

The fact of the matter is the Huskies are more talented on both sides of the football than Illinois. I don’t believe that Nathan Scheelhaase is going to sit back and pick on Marcus Peters, Sean Parker, Will Shamburger and Greg Ducre with the same ease he did against the Bearcats or Southern Illinois. Furthermore, I know that neither of those two teams have the firepower on offense that UW does.

What’s scary about this week is the situation. In Sark’s history at UW, he’s never had a problem winning at home whether it was a team he should beat or a team he shouldn’t beat. Going on the road against teams UW should beat is another story. Last year the Huskies squandered an 18-point lead against Washington State and didn’t even bother to show up against Arizona.

In 2011, UW went into Corvallis against a 2-8 OSU team and got smoked (I don’t care that Nick Montana started, the game plan should have called for Chris Polk to carry the ball 100 times).

2010 saw BYU completely shut down Jake Locker, and 2009 saw two of the greatest late game collapses in Husky history – at ASU and at UCLA.

Illinois is not as good as the Huskies. Put it up in the Illini locker room, post on their message boards, whatever you want to do. It’s true, and they probably know that. That doesn’t matter, because they have the mindset that they can force the Huskies into bad mistakes on the road.

This is the opportunity Sark and Keith Price have waited for. If they can march in to Solider Field and thoroughly outplay an inferior team on the road, UW has a legitimate chance to start the season 4-0 and be a top-15 team heading in to Palo Alto on Oct. 5.

This is a chance for Price to show that he has completely put last year’s up and down season behind him and put the faith he has in all his playmakers on full display. This is a chance for Sarkisian to show that his team is disciplined enough to play through a hostile crowd and not make stupid mistakes that cost teams games on the road.

If the Huskies are able to show all of those things this week, then I will firmly be in the camp of “This team can really do something special this year.”

Right now I am dying to be in that camp; but winning big at home against Boise State, while impressive, isn’t enough. The Huskies faced no real adversity against the Broncos, and they are sure to on the road in Chicago. Just like the Seahawks did against Carolina this past Sunday, UW is going to have to take a few haymakers and reply in kind without getting knocked down early. Do that, and we really are looking at something exciting on Montlake.

Bow down and go Dawgs.

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