In a matchup that features two teams that desperately need a win to salvage the season, the 3-5 Huskies travel to the Rose Bowl to take on the 3-5 UCLA Bruins.
After starting above expectations, both teams have lost their early season momentum. The Bruins have yet to win a Pac-10 game, and the Huskies are 0-3 away from Husky Stadium.
Coming off an ugly loss to border rival Oregon, the Huskies needed a bye week to get healthy and refocus.
Quarterback Jake Locker suffered a deep thigh bruise and is not officially listed to play yet. He is still questionable, but it will be no surprise if he suits up. Coach Steve Sarkisian stated that had the Huskies not had the bye week, backup Ronnie Fouch would have started in place of Locker.
UCLA is coming into this game still searching for its first conference win. The defensive struggle against Tennessee early in the year has been a sign of things to come for the Bruins, as they have struggled to put up points all year.
The Bruins have gone with the freshman Kevin Prince, but he has been up and down with a 4-4 touchdown to interception ratio. Compounding the problem found in the air has been UCLA’s inability to establish a strong running game, averaging 3.3 yards per carry on the season.
The young Bruins, with seven freshmen or sophomores expected to start on offense, have shown flashes on offense, and a key to watch for in this game is how well Prince can get the ball to the 6'5" sophomore Nelson Rosario. He could potentially present big-time matchup problems for a struggling Husky secondary.
Rosario had a breakout game against Oregon State with six catches for 152 yards and a touchdown.
The Huskies will be facing a tough challenge going against a UCLA defense that has been more of a positive than the offense for the struggling team. Washington, like UCLA, has shown flashes on offense but has been inconsistent and has had trouble putting up points consistently all year.
Locker should be more effective than he was for the majority of the game against the Ducks, and that will be a key to this game.
Jake is looking to get back on track and continues to show development as a pocket passer, while not losing his effectiveness as a runner. As we have witnessed so far this year, that is not always an easy balance, but Locker is making strides as a passer in Coach Sarkisian's first season, throwing for a career-best 56 percent accuracy with 12 touchdowns to eight interceptions.
Washington also needs to establish the run and try to find an effective balance with Locker of run and pass. Running back Chris Polk has been a consistent and tough runner this year, and the Huskies should continue to rely on him for balance and to take pressure off Locker.
Averaging 4.4 yards a carry, Polk has been a bright spot for this offense and appears to have the ability to carry the load running the ball—which is even more important with Locker’s renewed focus on throwing this year instead of just using his natural ability to run.
For the Bruins, they need to find a way to exploit the secondary of Washington. While Prince has been inconsistent, he should be able to take advantage through the air in this game. If he can build on a solid game against Oregon State, where he threw for 323 yards with two touchdowns, then the Huskies could be in trouble defensively.
The Bruins are looking to rebound after the last three weeks giving up over 400 yards a game against Arizona, California, and Oregon State. The Bruins will be motivated going into this game to prove their worth.
Both teams come into this game with a lot to prove. For the Huskies, they need to win on the road to re-establish some of the early season optimism gained from their three wins. The Bruins are looking to finally get a win in the Pac-10 after their hot start out of conference.
It should be an intense game, as both teams are desperate to make a point, but I see the Huskies coming away with their first road victory in a low-scoring game.
UW 21, UCLA 17