Washington And Steve Sarkisian At The Crossroads For 2009

Ian PetersonCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2009

PALO ALTO, CA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Head coach Steve Sarkisian of the Washington Huskies coaches against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on September 26, 2009 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

For those of you lucky enough (or unlucky for how bad the broadcast was) to see the Washington-Stanford game last Saturday, you got to see Washington lay its first egg of the season.

Coming off the win against USC, it is easy to imagine the optimism that existed in the hearts of Washington players, fans, and coaches. They can downplay it all they want, it existed.

The game proved that Stanford can be a legitimate contender in the Pac-10; that the Washington Huskies still have a long road ahead of them.

This week's game against Notre Dame I think will show us the real 2009 Washington Huskies. 

A lot of people seem to think that the Huskies played out of their skins for the USC and LSU games, and that Stanford showed them stalling on the intensity.

I disagree.

Sarkisian is the first to admit that there were tons of mistakes in that game, and that he didn't prepare the team well enough for the game.

This is all barring the fact that Stanford capitalized on one of the glaring weaknesses on this team, defending the power run.

The Stanford game was obviously the worst performance of Sarkisian's short tenure, with the previous weeks performance against USC the best.

The 2009 Huskies exist somewhere between those two polls.

They won't be world-beaters every week, but neither are they going to fold as easily as they did against Stanford. 

Sarkisian and his staff are good motivators, and I think the players aren't playing for a lame duck coach like they were last year.

That being said, this Saturday's game is going to show whether the Huskies can pick themselves up from defeat or not. This was something the Willingham staff struggled to do.

Notre Dame has won their last two games and lost the Michigan game by a score or less, so they are going to be a competitive team.

Plus they are just Notre Dame.

So, if the Huskies win, as unlikely as that may seem after the last performance, it could be the makings of a Pete Carroll like team. Win the big games, choke in the small games.

If Notre Dame wins, the performance the Huskies put up will be judged for its merit. How well they play will determine how long of a road it's going to be for the Huskies, and how successful 2009 will be.

A big loss could send the Huskies into a faster downward spiral, a competitive loss could keep the player's spirits up going forward.

The future is wide open at this point.