Ranking the Washington Huskies' Five Toughest Games of 2010
Year one of the Steve Sarkisian era took Husky fans through a gauntlet of emotions—from the upset of then-No. 3 USC to a sixth straight loss to the rival Ducks.
For a program that has not experienced postseason play since Rick Neuheisel roamed the sidelines, 2009 was a step in the right direction.
It was also a difficult reminder of just how much is involved in changing the culture of a program. All signs point to 2010 being the return to postseason play for the Huskies, but they will have to take on some difficult opponents to accomplish this.
Here is a look at the five most difficult games on the Huskies' 2010 schedule.
University of Oregon
Coming in first for the most difficult game for Washington is the rivalry game with the University of Oregon. Oregon is coming off its sixth straight victory over the Huskies.
2009 was an incredible season for the Ducks—they earned their first Rose Bowl bid since 1994—and they return all but one starter on offense and nine on defense.
The Ducks' offseason has been plagued by off the field incidents, including trouble for stars Jeremiah Masoli and LaMichael James. It has yet to be determined how those actions will affect their status for 2010, but at this point the assumption is they will see the field until further notice.
With the bulk of the offense returning, the Ducks will continue to be an electric offense and will challenge for the Pac-10 title. Consider their recent success against Washington and the fact that the schools are rivals, and this is the biggest and most difficult game on the schedule.
The first step for UW's return from the cellar will have to be to end the losing streak against the Oregon schools, in particular the Ducks.
University of Southern California
In 2009 Steve Sarkisian's Huskies made their first big splash by upsetting the No. 3 team in the country at the time in the USC Trojans.
By upsetting his former team, the Huskies looked to prove that Washington was capable of hanging with elite talent.
What was the problem with that conclusion?
The Trojans struggled mightily in 2009 in comparison to the previous seven years. There was to be no Rose Bowl berth and no Pac-10 championship; only four Pac-10 losses and an Emerald Bowl win.
Pete Carroll's era at USC has officially come to an end, and it will now be up to Lane Kiffin to get the dynasty back on track. Kiffin brought in another top recruiting class to work with and returns six starters on each side of the ball.
USC is going into 2010 supremely talented. The offseason coaching turnover minimized the bumps in the transition by bringing in a former Carroll assistant in Kiffin. In that way the offensive schemes will be similar, and Monte Kiffin will be able to keep the Trojan D strong.
Like most seasons, USC is going to be the most talented team the Huskies face. If 2009 proved anything, however, it is not always the most talented team that wins.
The Trojans will be looking for payback for last year’s upset, and the Huskies will need this game if they have any hopes of competeting for the Pac-10 title.
Then there is the little side story—game one of Sarkisian vs. Kiffin: The Battle of Pete Carroll Assistants.
University of Nebraska
Nebraska re-emerged from its recent struggles in 2009 to take home the Big 12 North title, taking Texas to a final possession in the Big 12 title game.
The Cornhuskers posted a 10-4 overall record, finishing with a Holiday Bowl win.
Going into 2010 Nebraska is returning 10 starters on offense and seven on defense. The defense will lose their biggest playmaker in Heisman finalist Ndamukong Suh.
The Cornhuskers will be coming to Seattle in 2010 trying to improve their 3-3-1 all-time series record against Washington. Nebraska did take the last two games in 1997 and '98.
These are two traditional programs with a bit of history with each other. Both programs have fallen on hard times, but they both also seem to be headed in the right direction with their latest coaching hires.
Bo Pelini already has his team reaching double-digit wins, so this will be a huge test to see if Washington can fend off a highly regarded out of conference foe at Husky Stadium.
It is an important step for the Huskies to take, as lately ranked non-conference foes have had their way with the Huskies in Seattle.
Oregon State University
Oregon State has quietly become a steady program in the Northwest and a consistent contender for the Pac-10 title. OSU ended just a game short the last two season of capturing the Rose Bowl bid.
For years the Huskies, and the entire conference, simply had their way with Oregon State. Lately the Beavers have become a steady contender in the Pac-10. Their recent success has one glaring issue—early season out of conference losses—but for the game against Washington that won't matter.
The Ducks' six-game win streak over Washington is better known, but the Beavers are also on a six-game winning streak. The 2009 game at Oregon State was particularly ugly, as the game was over before it began.
Overall the Beavers had a solid 8-5 record, ending in a blowout loss to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Civil War vs. Oregon was for the Rose Bowl, so there is always the possibility that there was a bit of a letdown for the players.
With eight starters returning on offense and nine on defense, the Beavers will once again pose a difficult matchup for the Huskies. The Beavers are losing starting quarterback Sean Canfield but do return explosive running back Jacquizz Rodgers.
Like the game against Oregon, Washington needs to win this game to establish itself in the Northwest and Pac-10 once again.
Brigham Young University
The storylines for this matchup are numerous. Consider the history between the two.
BYU took home a national title in 1984—a year that MANY Washington fans felt the title belonged to them.
When the schools last met in 2007, the game ended on a controversial unsportsmanlike conduct call on Washington QB Jake Locker that led to a longer extra point attempt, which got blocked.
Although they haven't met since the 2007 meeting, the schools are familiar with each other lately in the recruitment of Jake Heaps—a top quarterback recruit out of the state of Washington that choose to attend BYU.
As if that wasn't enough to tie the schools together for this matchup, Coach Sarkisian was the starting quarterback for BYU when they came and lost to the Huskies in Seattle in 1996.
The 2009 season for BYU was not as successful as some fans may have hoped, but it was still an amazing year. After upsetting a national title contender in Oklahoma—an injured Sam Bradford helped—an ugly loss to Florida State hurt their national perception.
BYU went 11-2 and ended the season with a pounding of the Oregon State Beavers.
Going into 2010, BYU returns seven starters on offense and five starters on D. They lose their star quarterback in Max Hall but do return four offensive linemen and bring in a top QB recruit.
BYU isn't the most talented team Washington will face, but for the Huskies to turn the corner they need to be able to win on the road, and this is a winnable game. It is a game they must win if they plan on having the kind of season being predicted.