Eastern Washington (0-0) at Washington (0-0)
The Washington Huskies begin life without Jake Locker this Saturday in Week 1 of the NCAA football season. At least they get to play at home – and against obscure Eastern Washington.
The transition should start smoothly. We think.
But should we write Eastern Washington off immediately? This school won the FCS Championship last season and was picked to win the Big Sky in this years’ preseason coaches’ pool. While the Eagles will be the first lower-division team to ever play Washington, they have some hype surrounding them.
Quaterback Bo Levi Mitchell, wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, safety Matt Johnson and defensive tackle Renard Williams are on the respective 20-man watch lists for top FCS offensive and defensive player honors. So EW does have playmakers on either side of the ball.
It’s also still very possible, or perhaps even likely, that star running back Chris Polk won’t play for Washington on Saturday.
The highly touted 2012 NFL draft prospect and darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate is making his way back from arthroscopic knee surgery and looks like a game-time decision for Saturday.
So is the window for an upset ever so slightly open for Eastern Washington? Maybe, but it’s pretty unlikely.
We can’t underestimate the gap between FBS talent and FCS talent.
Also, I feel good about Keith Price’s starting quarterback debut this Saturday. Could he be nervous? Maybe, but you could argue he had his trial by fire last season.
Price stepped into tough situations to spell Locker twice last season. First, he threw a touchdown pass on his first attempt to give UW a lead over USC in the fourth quarter of a game. Later, when he made a start against mighty Oregon, he held his own against a stout defense, going 14 of 28 for 127 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.
That’s hardly an impressive line but it shows that Keith didn’t totally flounder against the country’s No. 2 school last season.
In theory, if Price could survive against USC and Oregon, he could thrive with the reins to himself against Eastern Washington. If the Huskies can get an early lead against the Eagles, they should be sitting pretty.
Washington’s pass defense is a strength, so it can make life difficult for EW if the Eagles are forced to pass on Saturday.