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Washington, UCLA both mysteries, will meet Saturday

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Washington hosts UCLA this Saturday. Sam Barbee will talk a little about both teams from a Washington perspective and what he's looking for from the Dawgs.

Sha Thompson is the best straight football in college football, according to Sam Barbee.
Sha Thompson is the best straight football in college football, according to Sam Barbee.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Washington is a mystery.

It's not a John Grisham mystery, or a Dan Brown mystery, or an Alfred Hitchcock mystery. It's more like a Hardy Bros. mystery: not too complicated, but there are still unknowns that classify it as a mystery.

The quarterback play is one I've been talking about all season. The offense as a whole is all-or-nothing (mostly nothing). The coaching — although good — is still figuring itself out. The Huskies are a mystery.

Not as a big a mystery as UCLA, though. That, I would call a John Grisham mystery. They get blown out by Arizona State and limp through its schedule until it beat Arizona 17-7 last week. Brett Hundley is a good player, but he doesn't play like it every week. The Bruins are chalk full of athletes, but they have trouble putting it all together every week.

I'm going to start calling UCLA the Fighting John Grishams, Grishams for short.

So it brings us to the matchup between the Huskies and the Grishams, uh, Bruins.

I have a mind that Washington will win. The game is played in Seattle, and Washington is playing its best football of the season thus far. The 38-23 win over Colorado, though stressful, was a wonderful display of football. Quarterback Cyler Miles made a couple of very good throws, the defense overwhelmed the Buffs (eventually) and Washington ran its first punt back since 2003 (in a game that I was at).

That reminds me. Defensive touchdowns are usually considered bonuses. Rarely does a team depend on defensive touchdowns as much as Washington and actually be good. The team that comes to mind ins that 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Trent Dilfer is really good at talking about football on TV, but wasn't nearly as good at playing football on the field. That Bucs D, that famously used the "Tampa 2" defensive scheme, lived off of defensive touchdowns. The offense was anemic at best and the defense won most of their games.

Washington is largely the same way. The UW had 17 points against Arizona State, only 10 by the offense. The Dawgs scored 13 points against Stanford, only six by the offense. Washington has lived off of defensive touchdowns, and got another against Colorado.

Back to the Grishams.

Last year's game in Westwood was a really good one. Thinking about it makes me sad that Damore'ea Stringfellow got himself into trouble and had to transfer to Ole Miss. The kid really burst onto the scene against the Grishams and almost won the game for the Dawgs.

To go over the keys for this game, though, is a bit of a bore. Washington will have to get good quarterback play and a good offensive play, etc. I will say this, though: Washington still isn't bowl eligible yet. The UW plays 13 games this year, meaning it has to get to seven to be bowl eligible. A win at home against the Fighting John Grishams will seal that for Washington.

I'm looking for a couple things from Washington, and a win isn't necessarily one of them. I'm looking for more improved play from Miles. He had his best game as a Husky last week and was certainly a confidence booster. I'm looking for Shaq Thompson to keep playing well wherever he plays. In all honesty, he might be the best football player in the country. I put that in italics because intentionally because football player means more than just one position. Marcus Mariota is the best quarterback, Todd Gurley is the best running back, and so on. Thompson is the best football player. He could play guard and be good. That's a true measure of a football player.

But I'm really looking for Washington to keep playing good football and keep building program momentum for the coming years. Success breeds success, as the cliche goes, and Washington needs more success.