Andrew, the new author over at U-Dub Dish, was kind enough to join us for a little Q&A about Saturday's game.
ATQ: We all know that Jake Locker is very dangerous, and that he is going to be one of the best quarterbacks not just in the Pac-10, but in the entire country. That said, just how much of a threat is he at this point?
UDD: Locker is a very dangerous weapon in the UW offense and the entire thing is basically built around him. However, I think too many people forget that he is only a redshirt freshmen. All season long he has made rookie mistakes with high throws and misreading pass coverages. It's a learning curve that every quarterback has to go through at this level. The lack of talent around him has also been a problem. Without any sort of running threat, it is all on Jake to make the plays and I think the pressure has visibly got to him at times this season. That said, I don't think we've seen the best of Jake Locker yet in any game this season. But, as to how much of a threat he'll be this weekend, I'd say that he'll make his fair share of mistakes. But he's also going to make a few plays that Oregon's defense just won't be able to defend. He's that type of play-making quarterback.
ATQ: The UW defense is giving up 28 PPG, while the Oregon offense is scoring 45. Given that the Oregon offense is really good, and the UW defense not so much, what is the major thing that is going to have to change for the UW defense to slow down the UO offense?
UDD: Missed tackles. If the Huskies are even going to have a prayer against the Ducks, then the linebackers are going to have to make tackles. Ty Willingham said earlier in the week that it wasn't a matter of having players out of position, but rather just simply not executing and making the play. Stewart is the type of runner who I could see busting up the gut and going for big gains if our LBs can't get him. That's the major weakness on UW's defense (not that there aren't others though).
ATQ: Even if the key to question #2 happens, the UW offense ranks last in the Pac-10. What players should the UO defense really key in on.
UDD: Jake Locker. Like I said before, he's the type of guy that can make plays. He can run if he isn't contained in the pocket. If he gets too much time in the pocket, he has the arm to make the throws. And how can he be stopped? A solid pass rush usually puts the pressure on him to disrupt his game. The UW offensive line hasn't had solid pass or run blocking all year, so just blitz and mix up the packages and the Ducks can probably shut him down.
ATQ: Although the stats would indicate a big UO victory, there are two things that lead me to believe that it could be a closer game than we expect. The first is simply that its a rivalry game on the road, and strange things happen in those situations. The second is that the weather could make it one of those sloppy games where there are lots of turnovers, etc. Are there any things I am forgetting that could favor the Huskies?
UDD: Nope. I'd say given that nothing has really broke the Huskies way this year, you've got the only two things that would help us.
ATQ: How about UW special teams? What do we need to watch for there?
UDD: Field position battles. Our punter, Jared Ballman, has been inconsistent this year. He had a much better game last week, so it might be that he is finally progressing. But if the game turns into a battle for field position, then if he isn't on his game it is really going to hurt the Huskies.
ATQ: Finally, about half of the Oregon fan base thinks that this is biggest rivalry we have, with the other half going for the Civil War. However, all generally agree that the UO/UW rivalry is much more hate filled than that with our in-state rivals. For myself, if we lose this game, everything that we have done thus far greatly diminished, if not meaningless. Give me the UW take on the rivalry, especially as compared to the Apple Cup. And what would a devistating UW win mean for the UW fans?
UDD: You know, I've always felt like the UW-UO game was a second-class rivalry compared to the rivalry we have with WSU. I've just always felt like the Apple Cup was a bigger game given the difference between UW and WSU and that it is an in-state battle. But, there are plenty of Dawg fans that disagree with me and hate Oregon much more than the Cougars. Either way though, a UW win would be huge for the Huskies. Everyone knows how good of a team Oregon is and beating them would get the Huskies season back on track and probably build some confidence in the fan base again.
Thanks to Andrew for joining us. He's doing a great job over at the new U-Dub Dish, make sure to check up on it once in a while.