Why the Huskies will finish 8-4
Posted by Jerry Brewer
So, here's the thing about this post: If I don't figure out some way to make it self-destruct, it'll probably come back to haunt me in December.
That's the way the prediction game works. It's a guess, and since journalists are paid to cover these teams regularly, ours is an educated guess. But if we knew what was really going to happen, why would anyone bother enjoying sports? I've never understood why people put so much stock in predictions. I've had players nearly snap me in half because I guessed their teams would lose.
But predictions are also fun. They start great conversations. You're not really testing your intelligence, but you think you are. And when you think your assumptions are correct, you stand by them. Then a string of unexpected events makes you look like an idiot.
So, at the risk of looking like an idiot again -- actually, I prefer to the word dufus -- let me explain why I think the Huskies will finish 8-4 this season.
Let's do this by dividing the schedule into four parts: games they should win, games they should lose, toss-ups that favor the Huskies, toss-ups that don't favor the Huskies.
Here's how I break down the schedule:
GAMES THEY SHOULD WIN (4)
Syracuse (Sept. 11 at home)
Arizona State (Oct. 9 at home)
UCLA (Nov. 18 at home)
Washington State (Dec. 4 on the road)
GAMES THEY SHOULD LOSE (3)
Nebraska (Sept. 18 at home)
USC (Oct. 2 on the road)
Oregon (Nov. 6 on the road)
TOSS-UPS THAT FAVOR THE HUSKIES (2)
Oregon State (Oct. 16 at home)
Stanford (Oct. 30 at home)
TOSS-UPS THAT DON'T FAVOR THE HUSKIES (3)
BYU (Sept. 4 on the road)
Arizona (Oct. 23 on the road)
California (Nov. 27 on the road)
Looking at it this way, I figure the Huskies will win a minimum of four games. I figure the Huskies will go 6-6 if they do nothing more than collect the "should wins" and "favorable toss-ups." (And, yes, even though Oregon State is a horrible matchup for this team, I'm still counting it as a favorable toss-up because the game is at Husky Stadium.) If they lose a "should win" or a "favorable toss-up," then they'd have to make it up elsewhere to break even.
But this team is better than .500, I think. And rarely does an entire season play to the odds. So, here's what I think will happen:
1. The Huskies will win all the games they should (4-0). That's a dangerous expectation for a team playing so many underclassmen, but Syracuse, Arizona State, UCLA and Washington State don't have the offenses to exploit the Huskies' defensive holes. And if Jake Locker stays healthy, Washington will score enough points to beat those foes.
2. The Huskies will win one game they shouldn't (1-2). Of those three games, Oregon is the toughest. The Huskies just haven't played well in Eugene of late. But I'm not convinced USC will have the chemistry to be as potent as they've been in years past. But if I were to pick an upset, it would be the Nebraska game. Yes, the Cornhuskers are a preseason top 10 team, which would make them the best foe on the schedule. Yes, with that defense, it could be the game that leaves the Huskies battered and bruised going into conference play. But I'm still not sold on Nebraska's offense. And if the Huskies can hold their own upfront, their speed could play a huge factor. Plus, the game is at Husky Stadium, and the Huskies will be hungry for a signature victory. This game is the best bet to mimic last season's surprising win over USC.
3. The Huskies will split their favorable toss-ups (1-1). The Oregon State and Stanford games are at home, and if the Huskies are playing well, they'll be favorites. But winning both of those games might be too much to ask.
4. The Huskies will win two of their unfavorable toss-ups (2-1). That's putting a lot of trust in a team that hasn't won a road game since 2007. But I think Washington will win at BYU and Arizona. That Cal game is always tough to predict, but I'll go with the Bears.
So, by my breakdown, the Huskies will finish 8-4.
Home record: 5-1. Road: 3-3. Conference: 5-4.
They were 5-2 at home last season, so the home mark is no surprise. We've already discussed the road woes, so they have some work to get to 3-3. And they were 4-5 in conference play last season, so one more victory isn't asking too much.
The safer bet would be to say they have no chance against Nebraska and call it a 7-5 season. But that's no fun. And I don't need 330-pound Alameda Ta'amu screaming about disrespect after that game.
Seriously, though, I'm making some assumptions in thinking the Huskies can be good enough to win twice as many games as they lose. Among them:
-- Locker will be a legitimate Pac-10 Player of the Year candidate.
-- The offense will be among the top 25 in the nation.
-- The defense will improve to the level of mediocrity.
-- The Huskies will beat BYU in the season opener and exorcise their road demons.
-- The team will suffer only a normal amount of injuries.
-- The football gods will give them some breaks after eight years of misfortune.
-- The gift of Locker's return for a fifth season will bear more than just decency.
So, that's what I'm thinking right now. If it happens, I'll say I told you so. If it doesn't, I'll suffer a convenient case of amnesia.
Fed up with my long-winded ways? Follow me on Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer. Sometimes, I don't even use all 140 characters there.
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