We've been here before. The Huskies get absolutely obliterated by an elite team and half of the Huskies fan base begins to think the sky is falling and the other half concedes that the Huskies aren't ready to compete with elite teams and said team that blasted them might be the best team in the country. Whether it is Oregon, Stanford, USC, Nebraska, or now LSU who inflicts these losses, they all pretty much serve the same purpose, reminding the Huskies and their fans, that they are still a long ways from being an elite team. They hurt, but they also limit expectations and show the Huskies right where they are.
The good news for the Huskies is that the toughest game on their schedule is probably already past them and they are getting the only truly easy game on the schedule served up to them this week, followed by a week off.
What most Husky fans think will happen
Keith Price finally gets the Huskies offense going early and the Huskies jump out to a quick lead with some big plays through the air as the young receivers show their speed and Price gets the most protection he has gotten all year. The running game gets going with Bishop Sankey having his first big game as a Husky.
The defense never lets the Vikings get anything going and the secondary gets a couple of early interceptions that really bury Portland State. The Husky D also shows that they can get to the quarterback with ease against inferior opponents and make things very tough on the young Vikings quarterback Kieran McDonagh
The comfortable margin allows the Huskies to play some of the depth players, and they give up a couple of scores, but the key Husky players get some much need rest and are pulled rather early as the rash of injuries going around in Seattle have the staff scared.
Washington 49 Portland State 17
What most Vikings fans think will happen
Injuries for the Huskies, particularly those on the offensive line, open up the door for the Vikings to make it a game. The Vikings also won't be facing the hostile crowd of a pumped up Husky Stadium, but instead a disinterested CenturyLink crowd that gets the air taken out of it early as the Vikings slow the Husky offense as they try to drum up some kind of run game but to no avail.
The Vikings can never grab the lead, but keep it relatively close throughout the game, spurred by a couple Husky turnovers and some big pass plays where they catch the overconfident Husky defensive backs gambling. The Huskies passing game allows them to get them the win, but the Vikings stay within striking distance the whole way.
Washington 28 Portland State 14
What will probably happen
The Huskies come out fired up to finally beat up on someone and get their offense on track again and get an early score through the air, but then struggle with their running game and stall like they have so far this year. Aware that the Huskies and Price don't handle pressure well, the Vikings blitz relentlessly and slow the Huskies offense early. However, the underrated Husky defense terrorizes Portland State's young quarterback and creates a couple turnovers in the first half as the Vikings struggle to do anything on offense and the Huskies lead in a low scoring game at the half.
Desperate to get their offense going, Sarkisian turns to the air and the Huskies pull away by utilizing the two players that Portland State simply can't compete with athletically, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams. who score a few touchdowns between them. The Husky defense seals the deal by forcing more turnovers late in the game and Sankey picks up some yards late against a tired Vikings defense.
Washington 38 Portland State 13
The factors that will make or break the game
Washington's motivation - It will be on Sarkisian to make sure that the Huskies don't have a let down after last week's game, especially playing at a quasi home field that will be rather subdued with the lower division opponent in town. The Huskies are certainly much more talented than the Vikings, but we have already seen a few FCS teams jump up and knock off BCS teams that have looked past them this season, and this injury riddled Husky team can't afford to look past anyone right now.
Kieran McDonagh - Luckily for the freshman quarterback, the game won't be in Husky Stadium, but CenturyLink Field will still be a daunting venue for the young quarterback, especially against a vastly improved Husky defense that likes to attack. The game will be over very quickly if McDonagh throws a couple of picks early, but could be scary for the Huskies if he can get it going through the air like Eastern Washington's Bo Levi Mitchell did last year.
Washington's commitment to the run - Sarkisian will likely try to establish a running game for the first time this season against the Vikings, but will he commit to it if they fail to gain traction? The Huskies have to be tempted to air it out, but may want to work on their run game a little bit, which could lead to a closer game than many expect if they can't effectively run the ball.
It may not have been pretty, but the Huskies emerge from the non-conference portion of their schedule 2-1, which was to be expected. A week off is followed by a Thursday game against Stanford, which may be the most important game of the year, and one of the most important of Sarkisian's tenure at Washington as it will serve as a measuring stick of where they are as a program in his fourth year. With the game at home and the Cardinal depleted of much of their talent, Husky fans fully expect Sarkisian to finally get a win against Stanford.
Surprisingly, the offense is still struggling and will need to really improve if the Huskies are going to compete in the Pac-12 this year, but the defense looks decent and like it will scheme well against the faster, wide open offenses of the conference. However, since the first three games were against a mid-major type team, a juggernaut on the road and an FCS squad, nothing is known for sure and fans will have to wait a week and a half to truly get a good read on where the team stands in 2012.