Opening games in college football are generally a little confusing and underwhelming. Fans and analysts spend eight months during the off-season waiting for that opening kickoff, but then will commonly find themselves thinking that they actually know less about their team after the first game then they felt they did before the season started.
Generally it is just hard to judge much from an opener, particularly if it is against a team from a lower level conference or the FCS. How much does beating a Northern Colorado or Northern Arizona by 40 really tell you about how good a team really is when a bad FCS team is basically a Division II team, or how much does a close win over a Mountain West or WAC team really mean in regards to how bad a team is when the talent gaps between BCS teams and these teams isn't nearly what it used to be.
With that said, the first look at this year's Husky team provided some immediate conclusions, both good and bad, and also raised some questions that will definitely be on the minds of Husky fans heading into next weekend.
- The defense looked different and not just in formation - Yes, no one is going to confuse the San Diego State offense with Oregon or USC's, but the Huskies defense looked downright dominant, essentially only giving up a touchdown on a trick play and one a near goal line stand that came down to just an inch or two while also scoring a touchdown themselves. The defense looked confident and decisive and weren't afraid to attack with the linebackers attacking gaps instead of waiting for it to come to them and cornerbacks generally not giving 15 yard cushions. This was immediately evident on the first interception with Shaq Thompson creating the turnover by cutting off a receiver with an aggressive move that freed up Tre Watson for the interception.
- The team is also starting to look better aesthetically - Not to be shallow, but these Huskies are simply starting to "look better." The days when you could tell the Huskies couldn't compete with teams just by looking at both teams with the "eyeball test" are starting to go away. They aren't completely there yet, but guys like Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Kasen Williams and Shaq Thompson have the kind of NFL bodies that the Huskies haven't had in a long time and even the offensive linemen look a less soft and defensive ends like Josh Shirley and Andrew Hudson look intimidating coming off the edge and at a quarterback.
- Speed Kills - The Huskies, particularly on defense, looked faster than they ever have before under Sarkisian. Bishop Sankey isn't anywhere near Chris Polk's level as an overall back, but looks like he has a top gear that Polk didn't, tackles are going to have a tough time matching Shirley's speed off the edge, Travis Feeney is the kind of linebacker that can use his speed to be all over the field and the return team looked dangerous in limited use. This defense might struggle against some of the more powerful teams in the conference, but should match-up better than they have before with the likes of USC and Oregon.
- The Offensive Line still looks like a mess - It has been more than 10 years running now that the Huskies offensive can't seem to protect a quarterback or open some holes for a running back, no matter who they are playing. Injuries really hurt the line, especially with Ben Riva going down in the second quarter, but it is no excuse for how poorly the offensive line looked against a Mountain West team.
- The Offensive Line might get Keith Price killed - Unfortunately the Huskies biggest weakness leaves the Huskies second biggest weakness, the durability of Keith Price, wide open to opponents. Even when the Huskies were rolling on offense, Price was perpetually under pressure and took way too many hits and had to scramble way too many times against the level of defense they were facing. I think most Husky fans are having nightmares about what LSU's two future NFL first round draft pick defensive ends are going to do to the Husky tackles and Keith Price next week.
- The Injury Bug - Price already looks banged up, they are basically down to one healthy running back with Jesse Callier done, the receiving corps needs James Johnson and a fully healthy Kevin Smith to open things up a little more for Kasen Williams, and the already struggling offensive line has already lost a starter in Riva. And this is just on offense. It looks like Hauoli Jamora is gone for the season and the Huskies really missed his combination of size and speed at defensive end as Shirley and Hudson are a little undersized and Talia Crichton not quite athletic enough.
- Will there be a shakeup on the offensive line? - With Riva out for at least a month or so and the offensive line looking confused and rattled once he left, it will be interesting to see if the coaches change up the offensive line starters and positions. Will Erik Kohler move back to tackle? Will Shane Brostek have to burn his redshirt?
- Who is going to get more carries? - With Callier out for the season and no one really deserving of carries after Sankey, who at barely 200 pounds isn't a back that appears to be a workhorse. Lightly heralded freshman Erich Wilson looked confused in limited use and walk-on Willis Wilson shouldn't be expected to carry much of the load. Could Shaq Thompson see some carries?
- What haven't we seen? - The Huskies appeared to take San Diego State seriously, but you have to wonder how much Sarkisian and his staff was willing to reveal, particularly on offense, once they got in the driver's seat. It is likely that the Huskies held onto some cards that they plan on taking down to Baton Rouge.
- What business school did Rocky Long work with? University of Phoenix? - Long essentially blew three chances to make it a one-possession game by taking completely unnecessary risks. If the Aztecs simply kick two extra points they are only down by 7 points in the 4th Quarter, or if they complete a very makeable field goal instead of going for it on fourth down late in the game, they are only down by six. Unless they have an atrocious kicker, passing up the field goal might have been the most baffling decision as cutting it to six would have put a tremendous amount of pressure on a Husky offense that had essentially been ineffective for nearly three quarters at that point and it wasn't like they had a 4th and 1 anyways. Instead, the Aztecs failure to convert pretty much let the Huskies offense off of the hook and ended the game.