The Huskies open up against arguably the best program on the West Coast outside of the Pac-12 in San Diego State in their temporary confines at CenturyLink Field on Saturday, and while both teams have a lot of question marks heading into the season, I'm sure both fans believe that they have a great chance to win.
What Most Husky Fans Think Will Happen
San Diego State's lack of size on the defensive front will allow the Huskies to get their new two-headed running game with Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey going and the Aztecs will have no way of stopping Keith Price from regularly getting the ball to the physical specimens that are Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins for big chunks of yardage. The Huskies defense will be shaky early on as they get adjusted to their new schemes at game speed and contend with a solid passing game from the Aztecs Ryan Katz and his healthy stable of receivers.
The Aztecs passing game will keep them in the game in the first half, but Price and the Huskies will wear down the Aztecs on defense and score at will in the second while also grabbing a couple of interceptions off of Katz that will allow them to slowly pull away and eventually win by a comfortable margin.
Washington 41 San Diego State 20
What Most Aztecs Fans Think Will Happen
Ryan Katz will immediately go to town on Washington's paper thin defense with his dangerous receiving corp Colin Lockett, Dylan Denso, Brice Butler and equally skilled tight end Gavin Escobar. The Aztecs defense will struggle to contain the Huskies, but Washington will still have one of the worst defenses in the country and it will turn into a high scoring shoot out.
It will be close late into the game, but the Huskies home field advantage and Keith Price will step up to lead the Huskies past the Aztecs with a last minute drive.
Washington 49 San Diego State 47
What Will Probably Happen
With the loss of Chris Polk and Jermaine Kearse/Devin Aguilar along with some injuries in the receiving corps, the Huskies offense takes a little longer to get on track then most people expect, but at the same time, the Huskies defense is a little bit better than people expect and the first half is surprisingly low scoring with the Huskies holding a narrow lead.
Both offenses pick up some steam in the second half and trade shots back and forth with the Huskies holding onto their narrow lead late into the game. The game ends up being a lot like the Huskies opener last year against Eastern Washington as they struggle to stop the Aztecs passing game, but hold on for dear life and win a game that is closer than it should be.
Washington 31 San Diego State 24
The factors that will make or break the game
Washington's Offensive Line - The poor performance of the Huskies offensive line has been a weakness for the program for 10 years running and with the youth and lack of talent on the line this season, that shouldn't end in 2012. If the Huskies can get any kind of push up front and get a ground game going against the Aztecs it will completely open up their passing game and allow them to control the pace of the game.
Ryan Katz's Consistency - Katz tossed three crucial interceptions on his last trip up to Seattle when he was behind center for Oregon State in 2010 and it likely ended up costing them the game. With the Aztecs best chance of pulling off the upset in Seattle relying on their passing game, they cannot afford to have him turning the ball over against a Husky secondary that should be better than it was two years ago.
Washington's Pass Rush - One of the reasons offenses have been able to pick apart the Huskies defense through the air in recent seasons is a serious absence of a healthy pass rush. The Huskies can't allow Katz to sit back with little pressure the way they let Eastern Washington's Bo Levi Mitchell last year. Expect one of the Pac-12's leading returning sackmasters Josh Shirley to be relied on heavily to try and put pressure on Katz.
A 31-24 win for the Huskies isn't exactly the outcome that they and their fans would hope to come out with against a Mountain West team, but they will take it and hopefully head to Baton Rouge without any new serious injuries, and a 1-0 record always feels good. The Huskies offense will need to step it up as they get ready for a much tougher task and the passing game didn't look nearly as unstoppable as most people thought it was going to be. The defense isn't as bad as expected, but will be tested much more down the road.
Husky fans are happy with the win, but wary of the upcoming road trip and expectations are kept in check as the game at LSU will paint a more accurate portrait of how the Huskies will perform against the bulk of their schedule.