Why Dawgs will (maybe) beat UCLA

SEATTLE — Not that anyone needs reminding, but it’s been darn near a year now since Washington last won a football game.

And since the symmetry of it works out so well, it will only be fitting that the Huskies again win a football game this Saturday, 363 days after their last triumph.

So without further ado, here’s why the Huskies will beat UCLA Saturday to end their 11-game losing streak.

No, really.

OK, maybe I’m not sure the Huskies will win, but as one colleague so perfectly summed up this week’s game, “For the first time in a while, I’m not positive they’ll lose.”

How, you ask, can anyone expect this 0-9 disaster of a team to pull off a win Saturday? Glad you asked.

Scenario No. 1 involves a bus full of UCLA football players getting lost on the way to the stadium… What’s that? You want serious answers? Fine.

The simple and obvious reason why the Huskies will (maybe) win Saturday is the fact that UCLA just isn’t that good of a football team. The Bruins are 3-6 this season, and 0-3 away from the Rose Bowl. UCLA’s season-opening overtime win over Tennessee — now members of the Lame-Duck Coach club with Washington — looks less impressive every week, and the Bruins got smoked 59-0 by BYU just a week after the Cougars needed a blocked extra point to avoid overtime against the Huskies.

And the Bruins struggle the most on offense, which is great news for a UW defense that has allowed 400 or more yards in every contest this season. UCLA ranks 108th nationally in total offense with 293.8 yards per game, and 106th in scoring offense with 18.8 points per game. The Bruins are especially bad running the ball, averaging 77.8 yards per game, which ranks 116th out of 119 schools.

The Bruins have struggled so much on offense that they just scored 28 points against Washington State. The Cougars have given up at least 58 points in every other Pac-10 game this season.

In other words, UCLA’s offense is one the Huskies, who rank 114th in total defense and 116th in scoring defense, can finally slow down. Or more correctly, it’s one that slows itself.

Saturday’s game may well come down to an epic clash of a very stoppable force (UCLA’s offense) and an entirely moveable object (Washington’s defense).

Then again, the Huskies made Stanford’s Tavita Pritchard look like a Heisman candidate earlier this season, so there’s no guarantee that a bad offense for nine weeks won’t suddenly come alive at Husky Stadium.

Here’s another reason why the Huskies will definitely (probably) win Saturday: They owe it to the seniors. No matter what happens over the next three games, this group of fourth- and fifth-year seniors will leave Washington knowing nothing but losing seasons.

A win in their final home game would provide a tiny consolation for the 19 seniors on the roster, and don’t think for a second that they’re not reminding the rest of the team of that. If this team has any fight left in it, any heart, they’ll bust their butts this weekend trying to get a win for guys like Juan Garcia, who has battled back from numerous serious injuries throughout his career to get to this moment.

Still not convinced? Need another reason why the Huskies are a lock (perhaps) to win their first game of 2008?

The Huskies showed some life last week that hasn’t been there for most of the year. When Tyrone Willingham’s firing was announced two and a half weeks ago, the fear was that the team would give up on him, and after a 56-0 loss to USC, it looked like it had. Prior to last week’s game, I wouldn’t have given the Huskies much chance to compete even with UCLA this weekend, but after playing Arizona State tight for the better part of three quarters, it seems like the Huskies might have enough pride left in them to win a game or two down the stretch.

And yes, I realize how sad it is that I’m finding hope in a 20-point loss.

Also, in last week’s loss coaches showed us they’ll pull out all the stops to get a win. For most of the first half, it looked like offensive coordinator Tim Lappano had spent a few days on an Xbox playing Madden. And I mean that in the best way possible. Why not have some fun, especially in this last home game? I for one can’t wait to see what Lappano will come up with for this week.

But really, the main reason why I’m so sure (sort of) that the Huskies will win Saturday is the fact that, in this woeful year for Seattle sports, teams even find a way to lose for winning. The Mariners, for example, cost themselves the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft by winning their last three games of the season. In a season in which nothing goes right, a win Saturday will take away a lot of the intrigue from what promises to be the worst Apple Cup ever.

Regardless of what happens this weekend, the Apple Cup will be a match up of historically bad Washington and Washington State teams, but it will be even more interesting if it’s a battle for not just the Pac-10 basement, but also both team’s first win over a FBS opponent. That would be fun in a strange, perverse way.

So even by winning the Huskies can mess something up. Seems about right for this year, doesn’t it?

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more on UW sports, check out the Huskies blog at heraldnet.com /huskiesblog

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