Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
The Huskies try to bounce back from the toughest loss of the Steve Sarkisian era against a very tough Oregon State team.
It is likely that this has been the toughest week for the Huskies and their fans in the three and a half years that Steve Sarkisian has been at the helm of the Husky ship. Saturday's shockingly brutal 52-17 loss to Arizona is the kind of loss that can send a seemingly healthy and improving team into a tailspin. Sarkisian and his staff have assuredly been doing everything they can this week to keep the faith of a team that needs to turn things around in just a few days and face the fifth Top 10 opponent they have played in eight games.
The good news is that while the Beavers do in fact deserve to be ranked in the Top 10, they are beatable and a win would immediately erase much of the pain from the Arizona loss while also giving the Huskies a lot of confidence for the rest of the season. This is the Huskies last game of the season against a team that currently has a winning record, so while it is nice that there are easier games on the horizon, this is also their last chance to show that they aren't a team that is stuck in mediocrity.
What Husky fans should be confident about
Home Sweet Home - The Huskies are one of the worst teams on the road in the country in recent years, so the simple fact that they aren't playing on the road is a big relief. Also, CenturyLink Field has the potential to be a great home field advantage if the Huskies can keep themselves in the game the way they did against Stanford and USC.
Overrated? - Yes, the Beavers are undefeated and looked great in grabbing road wins at UCLA and Arizona last month, but they have looked incredibly beatable in their last two conference games at home against two of the worst teams in the conference in Washington State and Utah. The Utes and the Cougars were still in the game with the Beavers in the fourth quarter but just couldn't make the plays late in the game on the road.
Quarterback Controversy - It looks like Sean Mannion will be back for the Beavers after handing the keys over to Cody Vaz who performed extremely well during the last two weeks. Mannion was having a great season before missing time due to an injury, but did throw three interceptions to one touchdown while looking rattled at home against a soft Washington State defense. The Huskies may be able to shake the Beaver quarterback's confidence and get Beaver fans calling for Vaz if they can get after Mannion early in the game and get him to turn the ball over.
What Husky fans should be worried about
Keith Price - Price looks as frustrated this year as any quarterback I have ever seen in college football. His erratic play and lack of confidence have really affected the whole team and it seems like he hasn't been sharp on one pass all season. The Huskies need Price to pick himself up off the ground athletically and mentally if they hope to have any shot against the Beavers.
Jordan Poyer - The Pac-12's leader in interceptions is the last thing that a team with a struggling quarterback wants to see. The conference's best cornerback will also severely limit Price's options as he will likely lock down Kasen Williams for most of the game.
Coaching - Steve Sarkisian has done well against teams coached by the less skilled and less proven coaches he has faced in the Pac-12 like Jeff Tedford, Lane Kiffin, Paul Wulff, David Shaw and Mike Stoops, but has struggled mightily against teams coached by the conference's best coaches. Disciplined, well coached teams seem to be poison to Sarkisian's Huskies as he is 1-8 against teams coached by Chip Kelly, Mike Riley and Jim Harbaugh, getting outscored 164-377 in those games.
Players on the spot
Keith Price - This pretty much goes without saying and doesn't need any further explanation.
Desmond Trufant & Marcus Peters - After holding up incredibly well against Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, Trufant, Peters and the entire Husky secondary looked bafflingly lost against Arizona. The Wildcats hurry-up tempo probably had something to do with it, but the Husky corners need to be ready to face two of the fastest receivers they have seen all year in Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks.
Micah Hatchie - Hatchie had one of the worst games ever by a Husky left tackle against Arizona and his poor play was a big reason why a previously hapless Arizona pass rush suddenly looked unstoppable. The Beavers are limited on pass rushers depth wise, but do have the conference's leading defensive end in sacks, Scott Crichton. Hatchie will do Price a huge favor if he can keep Crichton away from him.
I would probably pick the Huskies to win this game if they had done anything last week other than get absolutely brutalized by Arizona. The Beavers are overrated and due to get beat by someone and the Huskies should want to avenge a late-season loss at Oregon State last year, but I just don't have any confidence in their ability to do that at the moment.
The Huskies offense could only muster 17 points against one of the worst defenses in the conference last week, so I have no confidence in them doing much of anything against one of the best. Poyer will have Price's only viable receiver on lockdown all game and Crichton should be on his heels making his life miserable. The Huskies defense will be able to hold back the Beavers for a while, but will continue to get brought back onto the field too often due to the ineptitude of the Husky offense.
Oregon State 28 Washington 6