The Huskies are a 19-point underdog against No. 10 Stanford.
So much talk about the future this week, with all the “Back to the Future” hoopla and the Cubs in the playoffs and this aching back making me feel like a decades-older version of myself.
The thought of that future picture got me thinking about the Huskies and what they might look like in a year or two or three. Right now, UW’s offense remains a work in progress, to put it politely, but even the most skeptical Husky fan (hi Terry!) can find reasons to be optimistic. You don’t need a DeLorean to get a glimpse of better days ahead.
And you won’t need DirecTV to get a glimpse of what that future product could look like for UW. The Huskies will line up against the best-case-scenario future version of themselves against 10th-ranked Stanford on Saturday night (ESPN).
That’s not to suggest that the Huskies will definitely return to national prominence any time soon — some of the pieces are in place to get there, but key parts remain missing. But the, uh, wheels are in motion, and the Huskies have already used some of Stanford’s blueprints in their rebuilding project.
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It was UW’s defense that fueled the upset of USC two weeks ago, and Stanford coach David Shaw said this week that the Huskies reminded him of another sound defense: his own.
The UW offense has already started to transform into the grind-it-out style that Stanford has championed in the Pac-12 for years now. Call it a conservative approach if you wish; for Stanford, it’s all about efficiency.
The Cardinal don’t beat themselves — having committed just three turnovers in the last five games; its also averaging 6.72 yards per play, and fifth-year senior Kevin Hogan has a QB rating of 170.8 while averaging 9.5 yards per pass attempt, both best in the Pac-12.
Stanford is almost perfectly balanced on offense (224 passing yards, 226 rushing yards), led by dynamic running back Christian McCaffrey and the best offensive line in the Pac-12.
For as good as the Huskies’ rebuilt defense has been, those are daunting challenges.
In a Marty-rocks-out-and-saves-the-day future, the Huskies match Stanford’s physical style on both sides of the ball. Present day, it’s difficult to envision the Huskies doing that for 60 minutes.
Prediction: Stanford 31, Huskies 16.
Around the Pac-12:
Washington State at Arizona (1 p.m., Pac-12 Networks): The Wildcats have the kind of big-play offense that should give the WSU defense trouble, but I expect the Cougars to be able to move the ball even more against Arizona’s beat-up defense. The Cougs win this one pulling away, setting up ESPN’s first “College GameDay” visit to Pullman next week. The pick: WSU 49, Arizona 35.
Utah at USC (4:30 p.m., FOX): Somehow, the Trojans are a 4-point favorite at home. I’m not entirely convince the Utes are a top-three team nationally, but they’re good enough to beat this USC team. The pick: Utah 28, USC 20.
Colorado at Oregon State (7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks): Can’t say I’ve put a lot of thought into this one. Oregon State hung tough against Stanford a few weeks ago, but the Beavers seem to have fallen off a cliff since. The Buffs finally get a second Pac-12 win for Mike MacIntyre. The pick: Colorado 42, Oregon State 24.
From Thursday: UCLA 40, Cal 24.