The Washington Huskies, the only team last year to finish without a victory, look to bounce back in the 2009 campaign. UW Athletic Director Scott Woodward chose to put the future of the program into the hands of former USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
Coach Sarkisian looks to rebuild a program that ranked 118th in the nation in scoring and 117th in defense. Sarkisian also looks to further along the development of QB Jake Locker.
As we look into the Washington Huskies schedule, it would be asinine to think they could compete for the Pac-10 Championship in 2009. UW, which historically has never scheduled an opponent lower than Football Bowl Subdivision (formally Division 1-A), has again given the Huskies a brutal schedule.
I have broken down the 2009 season into the top 5 toughest position battles they will face. Let’s begin with their September 5th battle against LSU.
LSU’s rushing defense vs. Washington’s offensive line
The Washington Huskies were terrible in every statistical category last season, including rushing yards per game. In 2008, the Huskies averaged 99.3 yards per game, good for 107th in the nation.
LSU ended last season as the 15th ranked rushing defense in the nation.
The Huskies offensive line will look to open holes LSU’s defense with wide bodies Ryan Tolar, Cody Habben, and Drew Schaefer
Even though they lost Tyson Jackson to the NFL Draft, the Tigers are still stacked on the defensive line. The Tigers are one of the favorites as always in the very tough SEC.
The Huskies young offensive should be overmatched against the vaunted LSU defense.
Advantage: LSU’s rushing defense
USC’s Passing defense vs. Washington’s Jake Locker
The Washington Huskies get no favors again this season as they matchup against the best defense in the nation last year in Pete Carroll’s USC Trojans on September 19th in Seattle.
Sarkisian’s biggest test is to mold quarterback Jake Locker into a better pocket passer. Locker, who missed 8 games last season with a broken thumb, looks to improve on his career 48.7% completion percentage.
Sarkisian has an impressive quarterback resume, coaching Heisman trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart.
Even if Locker improves this offseason, he is facing the No.1 overall pass defense in the nation from last season. USC also ranked 30th in the nation with 19 interceptions. Safety Taylor Mays will be looking to wreck havoc on Washington’s young wide receivers.
Advantage: USC’s pass defense
Washington’s pass defense vs. Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen
The Huskies look to finally beat the University of Notre Dame this season. The Huskies have a combined 0-7 record against the golden domers and this year does not get any easier as they play in South Bend on October 3rd.
Playing in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus, the Huskies pass defense looks to stop junior QB Jimmy Clausen who had a very impressive season last year. Clausen passed for 3,172 yards and 25 touchdowns and lead Notre Dame to its first bowl victory since 1993.
The Huskies look to stop a dynamic passer in Clausen, countering with Vonzell McDowell and Quintin Richardson, both of whom should be vastly improved from last year. Safeties Nate Williams and Jorhi Fogerson will try to prevent Clausen from big plays that break the game wide open.
The secondary will be the biggest weakness on this team, as was the case last season. Clausen, at home, should light this young secondary up.
Advantage: Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen
Oregon’s backfield vs. Washington’s linebackers
This is another tough test for a young Washington team as the hated Oregon Ducks storm into Seattle on October 24th. Oregon, which ranked third in the nation last year in rushing, did lose some talent in running back Jeremiah Johnson.
However, they return a dynamic QB in Jeremiah Masoli, who has been rumored to be a Heisman Trophy candidate. He can be a dynamic threat in the rushing attack as proof in the opening season victory over Washington last season.
If there is one strength on this Washington Huskies team it is at linebacker. Returning for the Huskies this season are seniors E.J Savannah, Donald Butler, and junior Mason Foster. Savannah and Butler were one of the few bright spots in the past for the Dawgs, combining for 254 tackles in 2006 and 2007.
This one is tough to grade out, but I am gonna have to give the edge to Washington. Their seniors should be able to shut down Masoli and the Oregon backfield.
Advantage: Washington’s linebackers
California’s Jahvid Best vs. Washington’s defensive line
This was not even a competition last year as Jahvid Best completely owned the Washington Huskies. Best ran for 311 yards and four touchdowns against a hapless Husky defense.
This season, Best is considered one of the best in college football as he finished last year ranked third in the nation in rushing.
The Huskies are really looking to shut him down this season, but with the game coming as the finale for the season on December 7th, Best should be able to dominate this game once again.
Anchoring the defensive line is senior Daniel Te’o- Nesheim, who will provide much needed leadership for this young Husky defense.
However, Best should win this battle as the beaten down Huskies look to end another long season.
Advantage: California RB Jahvid Best