Can Sark pull the right answers out of his hat this season?
At the beginning of 2010, you'd have been hard pressed to find a team with a higher ranked NFL draft prospect at quarterback, and the associated raised expectations that go along with it, than the 2010 Huskies.
Jake Locker was a "mortal lock" No. 1 pick next year according to some experts, and the Husky football team was given a good chance to contend in the Pac-10, or at least to make it interesting.
What a difference a few weeks makes. Heck, even the AP referred to Texas, Florida and Washington as three of the top six most disappointing teams this year. When we hoped to be compared to Texas and Florida, the goal wasn't on a list like that.
The season falls into three parts:
The first three weeks -
Loss to BYU, recovery against Syracuse and blowout to Nebraska. A 1-2 record coming out of those games was a disappointment, but it seemed recoverable. Some questions remain open, but hope springs eternal.
The next three weeks -
Beat USC, lose to Arizona State and defeated Oregon State. A 2-1 record out of those games was a good finish and made up for the results of the first games. There are some great moments, but still concerning gaps along the way.
The next three weeks
How many of the next 3 games will the Huskies win?
Blown out by Stanford, Arizona and Oregon. Total score of 138-30. Not a pretty sight. Locker hurting, Price does well, but team doesn't support him.
The final three weeks - UCLA, Cal and Washington State
Now, we will see what head coach Steve Sarkisian is made of. Quatrerback Locker is nearly approved for Thursday's tilt against UCLA. Whether it's Locker or Price, the Dawgs must execute.
There can be no more dropped passes. There can be no more blown coverages. The Huskies must remember how they played against USC and OSU and reclaim that fire.
They will need to figure out how to limit Johnathan Franklin and keep Brehaut from having the success that several of the prior quarterbacks have had.
Neuheisel always gets his team up for the UW game, and hasn't lost to the Dawgs in their last two meetings. This year, he'll face the Dawgs off a bye week, the bad weather and a "black out" of new jerseys.
The simple fact is if the Dawgs play a complete game—especially on defense—they have a good chance of winning. The Bruins have been nearly as mercurial as the Dawgs and that inconsistency can be just the edge the Dawgs need. Finishing off the Bruins early will provide a great start for the Huskies to finish the season strong.
In the longer term, if the Dawgs can somehow win their next three games, they will be bowl-eligible for the first time since before the dark ages (2002). If they do that, no one will remember the horror of the past three weeks.
If the Huskies don't win them all, Sarkisian will face very different expectations in 2011 than in 2010. He will be halfway through his five-year plan, trying to fill seats for a renovated Husky Stadium, and trying to return the Husky football team to relevance.
In 2011, Sark will still have a talented team, plus his third recruiting class, however, Oregon and Stanford will still be there waiting.
The Huskies need to rise to meet that challenge, or stop trying, and just become WSU.