UW Huskies face formidable foes in first half of 2012 season
The Washington Huskies begin the 2012 football season Saturday night against San Diego State. UW will face four Top 20 teams in the first six weeks of the season.
KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says a tough schedule is not the only obstacle the Huskies face this year.
Defense still lacking
Art says UW's defense is still weak. Despite the fact that there's a new defensive coordinator, it's basically the same players who gave up 67 points and 777 yards in last year's 67-56 loss to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl.
"They've changed their schemes but the best coach and the best scheme can't make up for an absence in talent. And unfortunately for the Huskies, that's the issue on the defensive side of the ball. They don't really have any powerful players - with the possible exception of a new freshman by the name of Shaq Thompson. He's a safety, a linebacker, a big man on campus. He's just a lot of things that will help improve the defense a little bit - but not enough even to be Pac-12 average."
Art says the Huskies' biggest challenge this season is perhaps their schedule. They play top teams LSU, Stanford, Oregon and USC in the first half of the season.
"It's hard for me to envision the Huskies being anything but 2-4 at mid-season. That's really going to beat this team up and make it difficult to go 4-2 in the second half of the season, which would make them bowl eligible."
Still bouncing back from 0-12
Art points out that it's only been four years since Washington went 0-12, and the damage still lingers. He says it takes years to rebound from a season like that, particularly in the recruiting process.
"Head coach Steve Sarkisian has done reasonably well in restocking. But you're talking about having to restock a defense that was one of the worst in the country last year. And I don't see the upgrade there that makes them anywhere close to an elite Pac-12 team much less a national contender."
Bright spot - Keith Price
Art says the best news for UW this season is quarterback Keith Price.
"He is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. There's a lot to like about Keith Price."
Price debuted as UW's starting quarterback last season after Jake Locker graduated. He shined in the Alamo Bowl with four passing touchdowns and three running touchdowns.
Advantage with CenturyLink Field
Another plus for Washington this season is that they're playing at CenturyLink Field while Husky Stadium is being renovated. Art says it's a noisy stadium by design that will put fans in the thick of the action.
"I think the CenturyLink transition year should be a net asset, at least in terms of fan engagement with the team. They're right down on the necks of the opponent and that should be a big advantage."
You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected since it was originally published. UW will play San Diego State on Saturday. The team was misidentified.