Washington Football team’s greatest 2018 threat is Stanford

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 10: Bryce Love /

The 2017 Washington Football Team’s fate was determined by the road loss to the Stanford Cardinals. Queue Stanford once more as the defining game of the 2018 season

The Washington Football Team traveled to face the Stanford Cardinals on November 10, 2017. The setting had the air of an NCAA playoff game. Both teams understood that the winner had the inside track on representing the PAC-12 Northern Division to face the USC Trojans in the PAC-12 Conference Championship. This  year, that game will be played on November 3, 2018. And it will be played in Washington.

Washington entered the game injured. Stanford returned home after a road loss to Washington State. In the end, Stanford got just enough offense out of running back Bryce Love, and just enough passing out of sophomore quarterback K.J. Costello throwing to wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside to pull out a win. Stanford’s defense clamped down in the second half, allowing just eight points.

Stanford at Washington similar rosters

Stanford graduated 25 seniors.  They have six players heading for the NFL Draft, including two defensive backs in safety Justin Reid, cornerback Quenton Meeks, and tight end Dalton Schulz.  Washington graduated 16 senior, with eight players aiming at the NFL Draft, including defensive tackle Vita Vea and wide receiver Dante Pettis.

But the offenses are nearly intact. Both teams will have several positions to fill, but will see the return of their quarterback and leading rusher. The difference maker? The Washington secondary will be at full strength this season, while it will be the Cardinals turn to work new faces into their pass defense. That unto itself will give the Huskies a better chance at revenge. This season, the game is sandwiched between California and a late bye week. That will let the Huskies put it all out on the field.

2018 different outcome

Stanford had two parts of their offense working incredibly well that afternoon for their victory. Byrce Love ran like a man possessed. But Costello made some circus throws which had as much random luck as skill.  The Huskies focused on stopping Love, and Costello made them pay through the air.  Then Love went to work after the Cardinals took the lead.

Washington had the only turnover in the game, but the real story was that time of possession which kept the Washington defense on the field for 36 of the 60 minutes. Stanford ran the ball 44 times that afternoon. That has to change this year.

Changes will happen

The Washington defense will need to step up in a big way this season. Last season, the team seemed content to remain in both a base offense and defensive package. Perhaps that scheme intended to help reserves who had to step in for that game. Clearly, the strategy backfired.

But the team’s offense has a new coordinator in Bush Hamdan. One change he must make this season is to close the gap on time of possession. No matter how good the Huskies defense is, when they are on the field, the offense cannot score.

New talented players

And the fact remains that the Huskies have a new crop of tight ends this season. Plus, there are new ball carriers too, hoping to pick up quality minutes to fill the void of Lavon Coleman. There are new players throughout the roster, each of whom wants to be “that guy” to make the winning play. All came in a touted 2018 recruiting class. All want to star on the football field as Washington Huskies.

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Perhaps that is the biggest factor this year. The game will be played in Seattle Washington. And the home team in this rivalry tends to do well. I have a good feeling about the results. While It’s still too early to put a score on this game, I believe Washington rolls a W at home.