By John Sleeper
SEATTLE – Respectful, yes. Intimidated? Not discernibly.
The Washington Huskies appear to see Saturday’s clash at No. 1 Miami as an opportunity to show what they have, rather than an opportunity to join Syracuse in the 59-0 Club.
“Miami,” UW offensive tackle Khalif Barnes smiled. “It’s a dream to play them. Miami was my team when I played video games.”
The Huskies have not played a top-ranked team since 1972, when they fell to USC, 34-7, a team that went on to win the Associated Press poll national title. Washington has won one of the seven games it has played against top-ranked teams, the lone win being a 17-7 win over Minnesota in the 1961 Rose Bowl.
“We’re excited about it,” UW quarterback Cody Pickett said. “You don’t play a No. 1 team every day.”
Yes, and the Hurricanes seem to be one of the better top-ranked teams in recent memory, if you believe the numbers.
The defense may be the best-kept secret about the team, considering the ink its high-powered offense has been getting. This wasn’t supposed to be the juggernaut is has turned out to be, considering the graduations of linebacker Dan Morgan and defensive tackle Damione Lewis, both first-round NFL draft choices.
Then, too, was the departure of defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, who went on to take the head-coaching job at Rutgers.
Strong safety Ed Reed, a consensus All-America pick last season, was considered the only standout defender among the 11, but that obviously, considering Miami’s defensive dominance, wasn’t the case.
“They’ve got great athletes at every position,” Pickett said. “They have a great pass rush and they fly around. We’re going to have to be ready.”
However, a well-documented slack schedule can skew any numbers, no matter how impressive.
The Hurricanes have built their fearsome reputation, in part, by beating up the Temples, the Rutgers, the Troy States and the Pittsburghs of the world.
After all, Dorsey did throw four interceptions and no touchdowns against Boston College. The Hurricanes had trouble with Troy State before winning, 38-7. And there are those who say Boston College should have beaten Miami instead of coming out on the short end of an 18-7 score.
It all suggests that Miami, despite being a 26-point favorite, can be beaten.
“Our mindset has to be that we can go in there and beat them,” UW linebacker Ben Mahdavi said. “We have to go in there and give our best effort. We can’t just be in survival mode.”