The Huskies head to Baton Rouge this weekend in one of the most daunting non-conference games the program has ever faced. Steve Sarkisian may have brought a live tiger to ready the Huskies for the greeting they are going to receive from the LSU home crowd, but whether or not the Huskies offensive line can handle the vaunted LSU defensive line should be a much larger concern for the Huskies and their fans.
While winning on the road against a Top 5 team in an extremely hostile environment is a nearly impossible task for the Huskies at this point, it also means that they don't have much to lose and would make a serious statement if they can even make it a competitive game. On the other hand, after a troubling game offensively and a few more serious injuries, a pessimism has seemed to develop among fans and many just want to see Keith Price make it out of Baton Rouge alive.
What most Husky fans think will happen
The young Huskies offensive group will be rattled early on by the crowd and the Tigers will send serious pressure at Price early and get him out of his game. The Huskies defense is fast and LSU's offensive schemes are pretty simple, so they should be able to keep it a low scoring game through the first half, but they do give up a couple of big plays due to turnovers and LSU's massive offensive line blowing open holes and the Huskies finish the half trailing 17-3.
The Tigers size on offense is able to wear the Huskies smaller defense down in the second half with their stable of big backs and Sarkisian packs away Price and Bishop Sankey early as neither can afford to get injured at all. With a lot of running, the game goes by pretty quickly and they have more time to have fun on Bourbon Street.
LSU 31 Washington 3
What most Tiger fans think will happen
The LSU defense will have Keith Price running for his life the second the ball is snapped and he won't even be able to get steady passes off. The LSU offense is more dynamic than Washington expects with Zach Mettenberger now at the helm and the Tigers score early and often, making it a three possession game pretty quickly.
The Tigers then coast in the second half behind their running backs and three LSU backs go for more than 100 yards as the Tigers show that SEC backups are superior to Pac-12 starters and start thinking about the only team in the country that can even challenge them, Alabama.
LSU 49 Washington 0
What will probably happen
The Huskies will come out firing early with their passing game, swinging for the fences in hopes to make it a game and they will have some success. Traditional SEC and Big 10 teams sometimes will have trouble with the wide open attacks from the West Coast and the Tigers offense is much more predictable than what the Huskies are used to seeing in the Pac-12, so they will be able to stack the box against the run. It will be a better game than most anticipate for much of the first half, and the Huskies will get a score or two through the air and the Tigers will score on special teams and by surprising the Huskies with well timed passes, taking a close but comfortable lead into halftime.
LSU will start to pull away in the second half as their offensive line wears down the Huskies and their defense starts to bang up Price and adjust to their schemes. The Huskies passing game is still able to move the ball a little bit, but too many hits to Price is enough for Sarkisian to pull him and essentially concede.
LSU 38 Washington 17
The factors that will make or break the game
Washington's Offensive Line- The offensive line looked nearly disastrous against a very pedestrian San Diego State defense last week and also lost starting right tackle Ben Riva to injury, so it will be a miracle if this unit can get any kind of running game going or protect Price. It's unlikely that the Huskies have any chance of competing unless the offensive line can really step it up and play well.
Zach Mettenberger - The Huskies were able to compete with the Tigers back in 2009 because then freshman quarterback Jordan Jefferson provided little to no threat as a passer and kept their offensive schemes far too simple. Mettenberger is very inexperienced so the Huskies hope to do what they did on defense back in 2009 and limit the Tigers offense to primarily running the ball, but if he can get the passing game going, there will be little that the Huskies can do to stay in the game.
Risky business - An injury to Price, or even Sankey at this point would be catastrophic for the Huskies. The Huskies will need to take risks on offense to stay in the game, but how willing will Sarkisian be to expose his quarterback and running back to hits? And how long will he leave either in if things start to get out of hand?
The Huskies return home after the 38-17 loss relatively healthy and feeling like they were able to play with the Tigers for a half, so they aren't too downtrodden but definitely aren't happy. Coaches don't come right out and say it, but injuries and lack of depth played a big part in what ended up being a more conservative game plan and they are happy to come home unscathed and ready for what should be an easy game against Portland State next week followed by a week off.
While Husky fans didn't expect to win in Baton Rouge, they begin to wonder when they will be able to compete with the elite teams in college football after yet another nationally televised blow out. There isn't too much complaining, but fans point out that this is Sarkisian's fourth season as coach and that they will need to compete better with the other elite teams on their schedule this season (USC & Oregon), or they will start to question whether or Sarkisian is capable of ever getting them back to that level.