Whatever You Call It, Huskies Have It Back

By Adam Caparell - September 14, 2007

Swagger is something that's been missing from the Washington sidelines for some years now as the once mighty Huskies have fallen on hard times. But the tide seems to be turning in Ty Willingham's third season in Seattle with the Huskies off to a 2-0 start.

With a dominating win over Syracuse on the road and the upset of then No. 24 Boise State to snap the nation's longest winning streak, Washington is perfect after Week 2 for the first time since 2001 and are walking around with a little extra pep in their step.

"Hopefully the old school word for that is confidence," Willingham said. "Maybe there's a return of the confidence that we can do things, that we can be successful. There's a quote somewhere that says 'what a man's mind can conceive it can achieve.' If you can not see yourself and believe in yourself doing great things then great things don't happen."

The Huskies now get set to host No. 10 Ohio State and a second straight upset of a Top 25 team would certainly put Washington among the nation's ranked for the first time in over three years.

But to do so, redshirt freshman QB Jake Locker will have to navigate the Huskies past the Buckeyes defense, led by LB James Laurinaitis, that has yet to allow a touchdown - one of only three teams in the nation to be so stingy.

"The defense is very, very good," Willingham said. "I'm believing it is comparable to some of the best we've seen in our conference which of course would be SC, which has been one of the dominant defenses in our conference. They run well, they're very aggressive, they have very fluid linebackers who take a whole lot of pressure of their team because they're so physical and they run so well. I don't know if we've seen a group of linebackers this big until we get to SC."

Ohio State's linebackers average about 6-foot-2 and a little over 235 pounds. Washington's linebackers average about 6-foot-0 and about 225 pounds. It's not like they're facing a bunch of physical freaks this week, but the Buckeyes are certainly an upgrade over the Orange and Broncos. So we'll see how the Huskies fair against the best defense they'll face until they see USC Sept. 29.

But even if Washington were to pull off the upset, Willingham knows his team still has a ways to go to put an end to that four year bowl drought.

"We have not yet put enough bite in our bark," Willingham said.

Weekly Picks

Last Week: 2-3 | Season: 7-3

Washington (+4) over Ohio State
The Buckeyes have the kind of defenders to stick with Washington QB Jake Locker. James Laurinaitis and Vernon Gholston are two who will be in charge of keeping tabs on the do-everything quarterback. But how will Ohio State's Todd Boeckman handle the infamous noise of Husky Stadium? That will be interesting to see along with how the Buckeyes fair against a legitimate opponent after their first two games came against cakewalks. If Ohio State can't contain Locker and he gets out to the edges, they're toast. And if they turn the ball over like they did last week, then they have no shot considering how bad the offense has looked so early. I never thought Ohio State deserved such a high ranking so early in the season and this game proves it.

Florida (-7.5) over Tennessee
The winner in this matchup almost always wins it by running the ball more effectively than the other. So who is that going to be Saturday? I think Florida. The Tennessee defense has been porous, allowing 160 yards per game on the ground and 32 points per game. Then they lose CB Antonio Gaines for the season and go up against that Florida offense with Tim Tebow gaining a lot of confidence and putting up some impressive numbers. Obviously these two teams have played very different schedules so far with the Gators feasting on patsies. One stat to keep in my mind: since 1997 no Florida QB has won his first start against the Vols. For the most part these are close games. I don't think that will be the case this year. Gators by 10.

Louisville (-6.5) over Kentucky
Expect fireworks. The two teams are averaging a combined 115 points per game as arguably the two top senior quarterbacks in the nation square off. Two things have to happen for Kentucky to win this game. First, they can't let Louisville run wild over them - they're giving up 227 yards per game on the ground and second, Andre' Woodson has to take care of the ball - but there's no reason to think he won't considering he hasn't thrown an interception in 213 attempts. But I just think the Wildcats are too banged up on the defensive line to pull this one off. I think they give the Cardinals a run for their money, but I'd bet the over (O/U is 77) and the Cardinals. Kentucky has no defense.

Boston College (+7) over Georgia Tech
One of the best rushing defenses in the country through the first two weeks shuts down one the best rushing attacks through the first two weeks - that's why I'm going with the Eagles on the road. Plus BC's defense has been extremely opportunistic so far (11 turnovers). The wild card in all of this is Taylor Bennett. Chan Gailey could throw out a few new looks the Yellow Jackets have yet to feature this season because of their lopsided wins. So Bennett could catch the Eagles off guard. But I like Matt Ryan to have a good game, barring his receivers don't drop so many balls again. A 3-0 start would be one hell of a way for Jeff Jagodzinski to start his tenure with the Eagles considering those three wins would come against ACC teams.

USC (-9.5) over Nebraska
It comes down to Sam Keller. There's no way Nebraska is going to run the ball the way they did against Nevada in Week 1 with the Trojans in town Saturday night. They ran for only 125 yards against Wake Forest last week so I think Keller's going to have to carry the Cornhuskers on his shoulders. If he takes care of the ball, they've got more than a shot. But if he's erratic and throws more than a couple of picks, Nebraska will be staring at their first loss of the season and that's what I expect to see happen. Look for a better showing offensively from the Trojans, especially against Nebraska's new look defensive line.

Posted by Adam Caparell at 04:15 PM on September 14, 2007

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