By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
BOULDER, Colo. — This is a game you simply don’t lose. No matter the circumstances, no matter the unexpected pitfalls, there are few if any reasons why the Washington Huskies would or could lose to the Colorado Buffaloes today at Folsom Field.
The discrepancy between the two teams in terms of talent and momentum are just too great to be overlooked.
For Washington, last weekend’s 34-15 win over Utah was perhaps the Huskies’ best performance of the season and secured a third consecutive bowl berth. After being frustratingly inconsistent most of the season, the UW offense — particularly quarterback Keith Price — seemed to find a rhythm that had been missing.
“I thought it was a complete performance,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said of the offense. “Hopefully, it’s one we can build on here and continue to grow on from as we head into the last couple ball games of the season.”
Meanwhile, Colorado lost its sixth straight game — 56-31 to Arizona, a contest that really wasn’t as close as the lopsided score indicated. The Buffaloes had no answer for Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey, who set a bevy of school records, rushing for 366 yards and five touchdowns on just 25 carries.
In its six straight losses this season, Colorado has given up 42 or more points.
With fans interest waning and Colorado head coach Jon Embree’s future in doubt, even the home field advantage won’t be as great for the Buffaloes. Really, Washington has the advantage on every level.
“I know coach Embree,” Sarkisian said. “I know him personally and I know he is fighting his tail off with that coaching staff to get the best out of his football team. It’s challenging. We’ve been there before and it’s not always fun, it’s not always easy, but when you watch the film they are playing hard.”
Even as a heavy favorite, the Huskies know they aren’t accomplished enough as a football team to simply look past the reeling Buffaloes and toward next week’s Apple Cup, and still win.
“It doesn’t matter to us,” Timu said of the Huskies rare role as the heavy favorite. “They are all nameless, faceless opponents. I’ve said it before. It doesn’t matter what the record is for Colorado. They are respected in this game and we need to go out and dominate and hopefully come out with a win.”
There have been a few bright spots for the Buffaloes this season. Freshman running back Christian Powell has three 100-yard rushing games this season and is bruising runner. Sophomore quarterback Nick Hirschmann also looked solid last week before leaving with a concussion. Hirschmann’s status for today is unknown. If he can’t go, transfer Connor Wood will start in his place.
“They are a pro-style offense,” UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. “They’ve got good tight ends. The back is very heavy; he gets a lot of yards after contact, which is something we haven’t done a great job of limiting. So that’s going to be a test for us. We’ve got to go out and execute.”
But even if Colorado does get points, Washington should get more. Colorado is last in the Pac-12 in just about every major statistical category: scoring defense (47.2), total defense (505.2 yards per game), run defense (227.6 yards per game) and second to last in pass defense (277.4 yards per game).
“We just have to attack this thing like any other week,” Price said. “If we just play the way that we’re capable of playing, we’ll be fine.”
Sarkisian isn’t going to change anything based on what Arizona’s Carey accomplished last weekend against Colorado.
“We’re going to do what we’re good at,” he said. “We’re not going to try and re-invent the wheel. We’re not going to become Arizona and run Arizona’s offense this week. We’re going to run our offense and execute it to the best of our ability. That gives us the best chance to be successful.”
Realistically, Washington could finish the regular season with an 8-4 record — which would be the Huskies’ best finish under Sarkisian. But being upset by a hapless Colorado could ruin all the good feelings from recent weeks. The Huskies coaches have tried to make sure no let down is possible.
“At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter,” Wilcox said. “It’s about how we prepare, how we execute — whether we’re playing Colorado, Utah, USC, the Seahawks, Bellevue High — it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. It has to do with how you prepare and how you execute on game day. And if you do that to the best of your ability, then you can feel good about what happens.”