Memo to Huskies QB Keith Price—watch out.
Washington travels into the belly of the beast Saturday night to take on the LSU Tigers, the third-ranked team in the country.
And they do so without starting right tackle Ben Riva and running back Jesse Callier who both suffered significant injuries in Washington’s opening victory over San Diego State.
That means that Price will be under center behind an offensive line that will be relying upon three sophomores to stop a dominant LSU front four.
That front four also features three potential first-round picks in the upcoming NFL draft. Those three are defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, and defensive tackle Bennie Logan.
Josh Downs, the other starter at defensive tackle, is no slouch either. This is a deep group that can rotate fresh bodies in as LSU head coach Les Miles see fit, including defensive end Lavar Edwards and defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson.
That trio of reserves would probably be starting had they decided to take their talents to a different school.
Now there’s no question that Price is a very talented quarterback who can wreak havoc on a defense with both his arm and his legs. Against a shaky LSU secondary, he’ll look to attack down the field early and often.
But how is he going to stay upright?
LSU can bring pressure up the middle, and the Huskies will have their hands full trying to keep the M&M boys, Mingo and Montgomery, from coming in at full speed off of the edge.
Huskies’ sophomore tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins is a load at 6’6”, 266-pounds, and he’s a solid receiver who is more than capable of making plays, not to mention the obvious mismatch he’ll enjoy against the Tigers who figure to have junior free safety Eric Reid watching him like a hawk.
But chances are that most of Sefarian-Jenkins’ time will be spent staying on the line attempting to help mitigate the Tigers’ bevy of rushing defenders who will be coming at them from every angle.
Even if that strategy works, whether it be a six-or-seven-man protection that Huskies’ coach Steve Sarkisian goes with to buy his quarterback some time, Price will find fewer receivers downfield—and more LSU defenders dropping back into coverage, further complicating things for him and taking some of the pressure off a Tigers secondary that, as noted earlier, is shaky.
When it’s all said and done, it won’t matter how many people the Huskies keep back to protect their quarterback.
LSU can take away the edge, negating Price’s ability to scramble off tackle for a first down, and they’ll come up the middle, putting added pressure on an over-matched offensive line.
Washington's focus on Saturday night shouldn't be on how they can win the game.
It should be on how they can keep Price healthy.