If the expectations for a bowl berth seem high for the Washington Huskies, the visions of a Heisman run for Jake Locker may be even higher.
With one game already moved to prime time and a preseason No. 25 ranking from the Sporting News, the nation will clearly be aware of Montlake Jake.
In order for Jake to have a successful campaign, the passing game must improve, and clearly the number of wins needs to go up. To enable the pass offense to click, most teams often look to the running game to provide that balance.
The Huskies are no exception to that philosophy; however, there are some interesting quirks in their rushing and passing statistics from 2009.
- When running back Chris Polk ran for over 100 yards, the Huskies lost four of five games.
- When Polk rushed for under 100 yards, the Huskies won four of six games.
- When Polk scored a touchdown on the ground, the Huskies won three out of five games.
- When Locker ran for over 55 yards, the Huskies won three of three games.
- When Locker passed for over 240 yards, the Huskies only won two of six games.
Based on those statistics, it appears that it's not necessarily a hugely effective running game in terms of yardage that leads to victory. The threat of a rushing game appears to open up the passing game—or perhaps an ineffective rushing game drives Locker to pass more. However, as shown in the last bullet, the Huskies didn't win any games when Locker threw for over 250 yards.
With our two Heisman goals of more victories and better passing stats for Locker, it appears that Polk needs to just be a consistent rusher, but not overpowering. If he can carry the ball 15 to 20 times a game for 75 to 80 yards, and maybe score a touchdown, it has opened the passing lanes for Locker in the past.
One of the most interesting stats last year was that in two of three games where Locker didn't pass for over 240 yards and Polk didn't rush for over 100, the Huskies won. (Stanford was the loss, and Arizona and USC were the wins.)
The two close wins show that the key to a successful Husky offense is balanced but not spectacular statistics. If Polk provides Locker with that balance all season, then a Heisman invite for Jake is a very real possibility.
If I wrote the screenplay for Jake's Heisman season, I'd say that he needs wins first, followed by great statistics. If he wins eight or nine games and averages about 200 yards passing per game with a couple of touchdowns, he'll be in the conversation. If he makes some highlight-reel runs in the Huskies' regional and national TV games, he'll garner some more Heisman votes.
Late in the season, he'll need some games to swing the voters. If they come into November at 4-4 and close with a win at Oregon, demolishing UCLA on ESPN, beating Cal, and not letting WSU taint the Apple Cup, Jake will be in great position to walk onto the stage in New York.
The key to winning those games will be in Jake's hands—and perhaps, to a lesser extent, Chris Polk's legs.