SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 11: Running back Chris Polk #1 of the Washington Huskies rushes for a 53 yard touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Syracuse Orange on September 11 2010 at Husky Stadium in Seattle Washington. The Huskies defeated the Orange 41-20. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
52-24. There were plenty of bad losses for the 2011 Buffaloes, but this one was up there with the loss to UCLA as two of the worst during a very ugly year. In many of Colorado's disasters last season one could find positive notes in an otherwise humiliating defeat (Toney Clemons in the early part of the game against the Trojans). This was one of those games where the Buffs were completely outmatched from beginning to end. This year, the Huskies have to deal with an infusion of youth as they head to Boulder for the first time as conference opponents.
The Washington Huskies finished the 2011 season with a 7-6 record. The team started the year at 5-1 with the only loss coming on the road against No. 11 Nebraska. They struggled in the later half of the year, finishing 2-5 the rest of the way with a loss to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl. The Huskies return quarterback Keith Price and an offense that will be good, but they have to put a better defensive product on the field. Head coach Steve Sarkisian brought aboard former Tennessee and Boise State defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox to try and help turn it around.
The Huskies were expected to take a major step back at the quarterback position last year with Jake Locker's defection to the NFL. Keith Price apparently didn't get that memo. He actually improved on the play at the position and took the UW passing game to the next level, finishing the year with 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. Anyone Buffs fans wish we had that kind of production at the position?
Price enters 2012 as a junior that is the clear leader of an offense that should again be strong. The Huskies lose back-to-back 1,000 yard rusher Chris Polk and will look to the trio of junior Jesse Callier, sophomore Bishop Sankey and sophomore Deontae Cooper to try and approach Polk's production. At receiver, gone are Jermaine Kearse and Devni Aguilar, two of the team's top players at the position. James Johnson and Kasen Williams will look to step up.
If you're looking for a player who could break out on this offense look no further than second-year uber recruit tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. As a freshman last season, Seferian-Jenkins was the teams third-leading receiver with 41 receptions for 538 yards and six touchdowns. With the turnover at running back and wide receiver, expect that number to grow significantly.
If we know the offense will again be good, what we don't know is how much improvement can be expected from the defense. The Huskies will switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4, but Wilcox is known for throwing multiple variations on that base defense to throw the kitchen sink at an offense. He uses a multitude of "swing" players who can line up at a variety of positions during a drive.
Up front, the loss fo defensive tacke Alameda Ta'amu to the Steelers will create a big hole to be filled. Senior Semisi Tokolahi and sophomores Lawrence Lagafuainia and Danny Shelton will battle to try and fill the middle. Sophomore d-lineman/linebacker Josh Shirley will occupy one side of the line with a mix of guys at the other end.
Ouch. The schedule for the Huskies is not pretty in 2012. After opening against a tough and improving San Diego State team, they head into the belly of the beast for a contest against LSU. They have the same three-team gauntlet as the Buffaloes do, but in reverse order when they face Stanford, go to Oregon and then welcome USC. The last four games of the year are sneaky hard with road games against Cal, CU and Washington State sandwiching a home game against Utah. The Huskies could very well be a better team than last year, but it's hard to see them eclipsing last year's 7 wins with a slate like that. The Buffs defense better be up to the task of slowing down the Husky offense when they come to Folsom on November 17th, but it's not hard to imagine this being a bruised and battered team playing at the altitude in Boulder.