Washington Huskies Football: 5 Winnable Games Left in 2011
The Washington Huskies football team is 4-1 for the first time in five years. Though the team looked shaky early in the season, particularly on defense, the Huskies have their fans wondering: how many games can this team win in 2011?
At the start of this season, many would have considered another 6-6 regular season record and bowl berth a success for this young team. However, with a bye week to rest up and a struggling Colorado team heading to Seattle next week, Washington may only need one more win in its last six games to match last season's success.
A look at the rest of the schedule suggests this Husky team has at least five more winnable games left in 2011.
1. October 15 vs. Colorado Buffaloes
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Colorado has received a cold welcoming to the Pac-12 Conference.
Sitting at 1-4 with an upcoming game at Stanford, the Buffaloes will most likely limp into Husky Stadium with a winless conference record.
Colorado has talent on offense, but last week's collapse at home against Washington State showed why the CU defense is ranked 89th in the country.
Washington's offense should take advantage of a thin Colorado secondary early in the game (six UW players already have at least 10 receptions), setting up Chris Polk to dominate in the second half.
Husky fans are already penciling in a win for this one, hoping freshman backup quarterback Nick Montana takes snaps with a comfortable lead in the second half.
2. October 29 vs. Arizona Wildcats
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Arizona has one of the better quarterbacks in the country in Nick Foles, but the Wildcat defense can't seem to stop anybody.
Washington's ineffectiveness against passing teams early in the season (Eastern Washington and Hawaii, for example) bodes well for Foles and Arizona, but the Huskies secondary has been fantastic over the last three halves of football.
Free safety Justin Glenn and emerging cornerback Greg Ducre solidified UW's pass coverage against Cal and Utah, and the return of defensive tackle Semisi Tokolahi has freed up better pass-rushing lanes for defensive end Josh Shirley.
A stout defensive performance against Arizona should allow the potent UW offense to win at home.
3. November 12 at USC Trojans
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Going to the Los Angeles Coliseum and escaping with a win is never easy, but last year's Huskies did just that.
This year's team arguably has more talent than the 2010 roster, which points to another last-second showdown with the Trojans.
Washington's biggest strength in this game won't be wearing a uniform in Los Angeles. Head Coach Steve Sarkisian has had USC's number during his first two years in Montlake. Sarkisian, a Southern California native and longtime USC assistant, knows how to beat his former team, winning twice on last-second field goals by kicker Erik Folk.
Despite NCAA restrictions, USC continues to stockpile talent, and there may not be a more lethal combination in the Pac-12 than quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receiver Robert Woods. Woods has averaged an astounding 149 yards receiving per game in 2011, and look for USC to get him the ball as often as possible.
Much like Arizona, USC relies on its offense to overcome deficiencies on defense, and this game may give UW another chance to simply outscore its opponent in a shootout.
4. November 19 at Oregon State Beavers
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The Beavers are having one of the roughest seasons in the Mike Riley era, and Washington should be heavily favored by the time this game rolls around.
Oregon State really misses star running back Jacquizz Rodgers. The Beavers have the 111th ranked rushing offense in the country, and Washington should be able to control the line of scrimmage with its huge defensive line.
Unless Oregon State greatly improves, this could be the easiest game on UW's schedule.
There's not much optimism in Corvallis, and even though last year's contest between UW and Oregon State lead to an overtime thriller, the Huskies should easily handle the Beavers.
5. November 26 vs. Washington State Cougars
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All rules and expectations seem to fly out the window for the Apple Cup, and this year's game, played at CenturyLink Field for the first time, may be much tighter than many expected at the start of 2011.
Washington State has a winning record despite losing starting quarterback Jeff Tuel for the first month.
Backup QB Marshall Lobbestael has played well, utilizing Wazzu's strong wide-receiver corps. The Cougars' comeback win at Colorado also shows that Paul Wulff's team may have more resolve and grit than in previous years.
Washington should capitalize on Wazzu's inability to stop the run. Chris Polk nearly single-handedly beat the Cougs last season, racking up 284 yards on the ground, and there's no reason to think he isn't capable of doing the same this time.
Only three years removed from UW's 0-12 season, it's amazing to realistically envision this year's Huskies winning nine games.
Coach Steve Sarkisian said it wouldn't take long to turn the program around, and he is proving to be a man of his word.