The University of Washington Huskies take on national power Oklahoma on Saturday in a battle between the Pac-10 and the Big-12. The Huskies are a program trying to rebuild in its second season under head coach Tyrone Willingham. On the other hand, Oklahoma is a legitimate top-25 team with high hopes for the season. Both teams are undefeated after winning their season openers at home.
The key to this game for the Huskies will be the herculean task of stopping running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Adrian Peterson. With the dismissal of starting quarterback Rhett Bomar from the team, Oklahoma's passing attack has taken a huge hit, making the talented Peterson and the running game much more important. If Washington can slow down the Sooners' running attack and force them to pass more than they would like, then they will have a chance to cause turnovers and win the field position battle.
On offense, the Huskies need to minimize mistakes and run the football. Simple right? Well not exactly — the Oklahoma defense is one of the best in the nation and Washington has struggled both running the ball and holding on to it. The one advantage the Huskies offense has is the mobility of quarterback Isaiah Stanback. The track star Stanback has world class speed and has shown the ability to evade pass rushers and pick up positive yards. Stanback rushed for over one hundred yards in last week's win over San Jose State in Seattle.
The keys to the game for Oklahoma are being able to keep a balanced offense and containing Stanback on defense. On offense, the ability to mix in the pass with the dynamic run game will keep the Huskies off balance and will make Peterson's day much easier. Starting quarterback Paul Thompson, moved back from wide receiver after the dismissal of Bomar, needs to put together a strong day passing to stretch the defense and open up running lanes for Peterson. On defense, if the talented Sooners can keep Stanback in the pocket, they should be able to contain an offense that lacks elite speed and bona fide weapons. Senior linebacker Rufus Alexander, given the task of spying Stanback, may be the most important player on the field.
In the end, the Huskies just aren't ready to beat a national power like Oklahoma, but they may be good enough to make it a game. The Oklahoma offense wasn't potent with Rhett Bomar and isn't any better without him, which means that the contest should be a low-scoring one. This game very well could become a grind, which gives Oklahoma and its strong running game a big advantage. I predict a 24-13 victory for the Sooners at home.