Let’s see now, if Washington beats Oregon …

  • John Sleeper / College Football Report
  • Thursday, September 28, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

Coaches hate looking ahead. We all know that.

You know the drill. One game at a time. Look past one team and it’ll bite you.

It spreads to the athletes as well. You won’t find Washington Husky players taking about the UCLA game Nov. 11 because they’re under the threat of running Husky Stadium stairs from now until Thursday.

Therefore, allow me.

You can’t help but grin with wide-eyed wonder about the enormity of Saturday’s Washington-Oregon game at Autzen Stadium.

Even now, in the Huskies’ fourth game of the season and their Pacific-10 Conference opener, this one is huge. And not just because it’s Oregon, in the middle of the loony bin of Autzen, where the Ducks have won 17 straight.

Because if the Huskies get by the Ducks, the remainder of the schedule is very, very favorable.

If Washington gets by Oregon, the Huskies figure to be favored in at least its next five games: Oregon State at home; at Arizona State; home against Cal; on the road against Stanford and at home against Arizona.

The regular season’s final two games are: at home against UCLA, which looked merely mortal against the Ducks, and at Washington State, which has more issues than it does undergraduates.

So, what’s it all mean? It’s not inconceivable that the Huskies – with holes at wideout, apparently without a featured, workhorse tailback and an inexperienced defensive line – could run the table. Sheesh, 11-0. Think of it.

Heck with the Rose Bowl. Did someone say Orange Bowl? The BCS Championship game?

Oh, yeah. It was Beano Cook, the fleshy-throated ABC hack who once confused Ron Powlus with Joe Montana.

Will it happen? Probably not. This being the Pac-10, anything goes. And the biggest obstacle, UCLA, still looks pretty formidable. Road games at Stanford and Arizona State won’t be walks. Then there’s Apple Cup at Pullman.

And throw in Washington’s immediate past – inexplicably flat losses to Arizona State and UCLA, that knocked the Huskies out of Rose Bowl consideration in 1999.

Indeed, Washington’s biggest opponent might be itself.

But, hey. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves or anything.

Here’s a look at Saturday’s games.

  • Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

  • Stars to watch: Washington – Quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo hopes to break out of a nagging turnover problem – he has five interceptions in three games – and figures to come back strong against the Ducks. Part of the reason: Washington’s running game, which pounded Oregon for 256 yards in last year’s 34-20 UW victory. Paul Arnold showed signs at Colorado of breaking out of his tentative mode. Fullback Pat Conniff might be big here, with thrusts up the middle and the occasional flare pass. UW wideouts, disappointing against Colorado, must have a better day. With Will Hooks (irregular heartbeat) out, Todd Elstrom and true freshman Justin Robbins have to keep UO’s defense honest by holding onto the ball. Tight end Jerramy Stevens, the Huskies’ leading receiver, has to exploit a small Duck secondary. On defense, tackle Larry Tripplett looks to continue his astonishing play and linebacker Derrell Daniels has to keep tailback Maurice Morris from breaking a big play. The secondary, led by safety Hakim Akbar and corner Anthony Vontoure, has to blanket big-play receivers Marshaun Tucker and Keenan Howry.

    Oregon – Morris is a dynamic back who will be tested by Washington’s front seven. Joey Harrington continues the Duck tradition of great quarterbacks with 839 passing yards, although he’s completing just 48 percent of his throws. Tucker and Howry, after a day of the drops against Wisconsin, have suddenly turned dependable, and Tucker is averaging better than 21 yards a catch. On defense, end Saul Patu has four sacks and linebacker Matt Smith is a 245-pound freight train against the run. Corner Rashad Bauman, at 5 feet 8 inches, is among the conference leaders in passes defended and interceptions.

  • Breaking down the game: It’s Washington’s ball control vs. Oregon’s quick-strike ability. The Huskies figure to pound the running game between the tackles and take advantage of a distinct size advantage up front. If the running game works, Tuiasosopo will take the opportunity to burn Oregon deep. Watch for the UW defense to stack the line to deal with Morris and for the secondary to play Oregon wideouts man-to-man, especially in the Ducks’ four- and five-receiver spread sets. The Huskies might be able to get away with it, because that’s what they did against Miami.

  • Bottom line: Autzen Stadium will be crazy, but so was Folsom Field when Washington beat Colorado. Don’t underestimate the power of the bye week. Washington is largely healthy and has been preparing for two weeks.

  • Pick: Washington, 31-30.

  • Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

  • Stars to watch: Washington State – Deon Burnett and Dave Minnich have been a steady 1-2 combo in the Cougars’ running game. Quarterback Jason Gesser has been efficient with six TD passes and just two interceptions. Flanker Milton Wynn is seventh in the nation in receiving yards at 106.7 yards a game. Strong safety Billy Newman and middle linebacker Melvin Simmons are among the conference’s leaders in tackles.

    Cal – Coach Tom Holmoe has simplified the offense for quarterback Kyle Boller, who, despite his struggles, is a diamond in the rough. Punter Nick Harris had five punts downed inside the 5-yard line at Illinois and two inside the 5 at Fresno State.

    Breaking down the game: The big problem with WSU has been the defense, which is last in the Pac-10 in points allowed, passing yards and total defense. Cal’s offense has been almost as horrible. This won’t be pretty.

  • Bottom line: Cal played Illinois tough on the road, and there’s no denying that Harris is a great weapon, maybe the best the Bears can offer.

  • Pick: Cal, 17-16.

  • Arizona at Stanford: Cardinal quarterback Randy Fasani is out with a knee injury. So what does backup Chris Lewis do? Toss three TD passes against Texas, including the game-winner. Until the Wildcats get their severe problems on offense solved, they’ll have problems with Rice. Pick: Stanford, 21-3.

  • USC at Oregon State: There’s a lot to like here. OSU tailback Ken Simonton against the Trojan front seven. USC quarterback Carson Palmer against a Beaver defense that has seven interceptions and has allowed just three points in the last six quarters, albeit against questionable competition. OSU hasn’t beaten the Trojans since 1967 and hasn’t gone 4-0 since 1957. The Beavers will find out a lot about themselves this time, because playing Eastern Washington and New Mexico hardly brings out a team’s character. Pick: USC, 30-20.

  • Arizona State at UCLA: The Sun Devils are facing the Bruins at the wrong time. Smarting over a horrid offensive performance against Oregon, coach Bob Toledo is rushing Cory Paus back at quarterback. Stat of the week: ASU quarterback Jeff Krohn was 6-for-10 passing against Utah State, but he threw for 248 yards. Four touchdown passes of 72, 70, 61 and 35 yards will do that. Don’t expect a repeat against a bunch of wounded, ticked-off Bruins. Pick: UCLA, 42-17.

  • Wisconsin at Michigan: Huge game, even now, that will have ramifications on the Big Ten title. Michigan showed mettle in its victory at Illinois and the Wolverines are playing at home. Besides that, there’s not much separating these two teams. Pick: Michigan, 20-17.

  • Georgia at Arkansas: The Hogs will be without star tailback Cedric Cobbs, but they do have momentum on their side. Pick: Arkansas, 28-24.

  • Kansas State at Colorado: Murderer’s Row continues for the Buffaloes, who have a chance to go 0-6 before they figure to romp against Kansas. Should we feel sorry for them? Hey, we didn’t make the schedule. Another strike against Colorado. KSU punt returner and tailback extraordinaire David Allen is back. Ugh. Pick: Kansas State, 31-10.

  • South Carolina at Alabama: Let’s see. The Gamecocks are 4-0 and are coming off a win against Mississippi State. Alabama’s 1-3, coach Mike DuBose offered to resign following a 21-0 loss to Southern Mississippi and the Tide still is a 7-point favorite. Somebody doesn’t believe. Neither do we. Pick: Alabama, 21-20.

  • Sleeper pick of the day: Mississippi State 31, Florida 28.

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