In just a few hours, the Huskies will take on Stanford in what could be called the biggest game in Husky program history. Pundits and fans alike love to attach superlatives and hyperbole to games in order to make their articles or arguments at The Duchess stand out. Is tonight's game huge? Of course it is. But I don't think we can rush to judgement on how big a game is until AFTER it happens. Let me explain. How many times have we as sports fans looked at a mid-season game and thought, "If we don't win this game you can kiss any kind of championship goodbye!" If you didn't raise your hand where you sit or stand, you are lying.
After the Seahawks were 3-3 in 2014 I told my brother and his friend that I would take them out for drinks for a year if the Seahawks finished any better than 8-8 that season. Hyperbole. Unfortunately my brother doesn't forget a bet. As we all know, they went on to win 10 of the next 11, beat Green Bay in that game and reached the Super Bowl. Did losing to the hapless Rams on the road in week 7 derail the Seahawks chances of obtaining the #1 seed? No. But when we were 3-2 and needed a big win, I bet a lot of people said it was a "must win" game or the season is over.
My point is, we won't know how big this game is going to be until we find out what the rest of the season has in store for us. We could win this game big or small and then lose 3 or 4 more the rest of the season therefore determining that is was just a good win when it happened. We could lose this game and end up being a 1-loss Pac12 team fighting for a spot in the College Football Playoff. All I am saying is, if UW wants to be taken seriously as a contender year in and year out, we need to stop pretending that seasons rest on each "big" game that comes up on the schedule.
Don't get me wrong, the stakes are high tonight. A top-ten matchup at Husky Stadium on a Friday night (sorry commuters on any major arterial this evening) in front of a sold out crowd on national TV without any other competing games except the poor high schoolers who play on Friday nights who are really only thinking about the school dance later that night and which cheerleader to inappropriately grind on...is a big deal. Stanford has been tough against the Huskies recently. Stanford has won the last 3 matchups and 7 of the last 8 in generally convincing fashion. Two years ago at Husky Stadium was supposed to be the one that got us over the hump. Two hard hitting defenses with mediocre offenses presented UW with a chance to tough one out. Shaq Thompson was doing some surreal things on the field that season and sure enough he stripped the ball and ran it back for the Huskies only touchdown that day. But alas, it wasn't enough and another opportunity in a "massive" game went by the wayside. See, that season we were undefeated after a crappy non-conference schedule. Stanford was undefeated ranked #16 and this was supposed to show the country that despite our easy non-conference schedule, we could still hang with the big boys (sound familiar). Hang we did; but no win.
For tonight's purposes, let's hope that this game will mean something big.
On that note, here is how it shakes out. Stanford is the same tough, bruising, big bodied team they have been since they decided to take football seriously about 10 years ago (see: BFWD posts in this blog). David Shaw is a master of the big lines, few really talented skill players and nominal QB system that has sent them to the Rose Bowl and kept them in the conversation for national championship in recent years. Nothing else is all that different than most years except they have Ed McCaffrey's son (Christian), who just so happens to be the reigning Heisman runner-up and coming off a season where he set the all time mark for all purpose yards AND put up more than 300 yards against the Dawgs last year. Stopping him and keeping him inside the tackles is going to be key for the Huskies. He is obviously dangerous when he breaks free and keeping a spy on him will be crucial to winning tonight. One of the WR's is out for Stanford and their QB is just OK, which has always worked for them.
On the other end, the Huskies need to keep the offense going without dumb turnovers or not making fourth down conversions. Both the Huskies and Stanford had ugly wins last week, which these programs love and appreciate. The Huskies have a few more weapons on offense and aren't nearly as one dimensional as the Cardinal, but they have to put it all together if they want to beat the likes of Stanford. The Cardinal will be missing two of their starting cornerbacks, so it will be crucial to get quick slants and the occasional deep ball going. The UW defense is solid and needs to be better than last week, but I like going against a quarterback who can't run for an 80 yard touchdown against us. That makes this a great matchup for the Huskies and like every year with Stanford will come down to the trenches.
I do think this is a game that the Huskies can win, but somebody around here has to be the pessimist. It just doesn't seem to all add up to a program defining win tonight because of past precedent, but man do I hope I am wrong.
The Pick: Stanford 24, UW 21