Washington Tries To Prove They Belong

Steve Sarkisian knows he has a golden opportunity this Saturday night in Seattle against an uncertain Oregon Ducks squad. The Rose Bowl could be there for him if everything breaks right, but Sark has to go out and land the biggest victory (and biggest upset) of his tenure.

The Washington Huskies are standing mighty proud and tall at 6-2 and 4-1 in the Pac-12, and all indications are showing that they're ready to take the next step forward and compete for the conference crown in future seasons. What remains to be seen is how consistent they can be against the elite members of their conference.

The offense is at least showing it can be super fun to watch (which was about exactly the opposite in most of the Jake Locker era). UW has a quarterback in Keith Price that's proven he fits right into the system his head coach has installed, and he can handle the responsibilities while providing an added dimension of playmaking. It's kept UW moving forward and proving they can beat anyone anywhere.

Price has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal as well, with Jermaine Kearse, Devin Aguilar and James Johnson all getting their fair share of catches on the outside (Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Chris Polk tend to bag the rest). Polk is one of the most physical and durable runners in the conference, and seems to continue to keep opposing defense on their heels when he bowls right at him and breaks right through his supposed defenders. Washington's offensive weapons rival up there with any great assortment of talent the conference has produced the past few years, and are poised to give UW a shot at a true upset this weekend.

Not so the case with Washington's defense, which remains a glorified mess and is the likeliest culprit if the Ducks run away tonight. Steve Sarkisian might be fighting for status, but Nick Holt is fighting to retain his job if his defense keeps on malfunctioning everyplace. Holt has had few successes in his two and two-thirds years in Seattle, and his defense seems to always hemorrhage the yards against whatever team he faces.

Keep in mind Washington gave up 400+ rushing yards to Stanford a few weeks ago, setting good school records on one side and bad school records on the other. Takes an implicit stubbornness (and potential madness) to never adjust from not letting Andrew Luck pass the ball, instead letting him hand it off fifty times with only six men and a half covering the box, all while considering the Cardinal offensive line is equally as mean as their quarterback.  If they let the Cardinal run all over them, what chance do they have containing Oregon for four quarters?

It's looking like Washington might have to pull out all their offensive cards to get that win on Saturday. Otherwise they could be left fighting for the best of the second tier, which could leave them scraping for leftovers for much of the near future. UW loses a lot on offense this offseason, and the defense might not be getting much better.

With the era of Husky Stadium coming to a close for renovations, a lot is at stake for whether the Sark era at UW keeps the door wide open for conference titles, or starts sliding shut for the age when worthier foes come along.

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