Opponent Q & A: Washington Huskies

Nov 9, 2023, 4:16 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – Mark Schafer of the UW Dawg Pound was kind enough to do a question swap this week in order to gain a little more insight into the No. 5 Washington Huskies.

If you are interested in what I had to say about the Utes, you can check that out here.

The Huskies have had another great season under second-year head coach Kalen DeBoer and are on a path toward the Pac-12 Championship game and a possible College Football Playoff berth. However, Utah might have something to say about that over the weekend. 

To prepare for the game, here is what Shafer had to say about Washington and what Utah will need to do if they want to pull the upset.

Getting To Know No. 5 Washington

Q & A No. 1

MB: Kalen DeBoer came to UW just last season after the Jimmy Lake experiment failed and turned things around instantly. That turn-around has carried into this season. We saw some other new head coaches come in last year and have instant success too, but it’s fallen off this year. What is it that DeBoer has done differently than others to sustain and build off of what he built in year one?

MS: Kalen DeBoer has managed to stay winning in year 2 because of the buy-in from his players. As cliche as that sounds, I feel like its true. So many of these guys came back because they believed there was unfinished business, and they could win even more and go even further than they did in year 1. You see that in how they prepare each week, and that carries over to their performance on Saturday. I think the retention of every single assistant coach is also a huge factor. That continuity, I think, ties into the preparation angle. It also seems like the guys are more settled into the scheme, on both sides of the ball. There could be more reasons why but those are the ones I can see every week.

Q & A No. 2

MB: Michael Penix Jr. has separated himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the country. Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham had high praise for him earlier in the week. As someone who gets to watch and cover him regularly, what is it that he does really well? Are there any weaknesses in his game that the Utah defense can take advantage of?

MS: Michael Penix is the greatest Husky quarterback I’ve seen in all my years of watching Husky football. He has all the physical traits you look for in a quarterback. He has a big arm, the willingness to make just about any throw, and the confidence that every pass is going to be on the money. The only things that I can think of as weaknesses is the fact he tends to sometimes overshoot his receivers, and if Utah’s defense can get pressure on him and rattle him, some of his throws will be offline.

Q & A No. 3

MB: UW has one of the best offensive lines in the country. What will Utah’s defensive line have to do well in order to disrupt them so they can get pressure on Penix Jr?

MS: Due to injuries up front (most notably to Matteo Mele and Julius Buelow, although Buelow is back) the offensive line has had to try different configurations of personnel to try and compensate. It is in some of those looks up front that defenses have figured out their weakness: rush the defensive tackles up the middle and hope the protection falters. It did during the ASU game, resulting in zero offensive touchdowns. The line will have to be elite in this game to protect Penix and allow him to go to work.

Q & A No. 4

MB: When we talk about UW this year, it feels like the conversation mostly surrounds Penix Jr and the offense- for good reason. What does the Husky defense bring to the table and who might be a problem for Bryson Barnes and the Utah offense?

MS: The Husky defense is weird to cover. There are stats that show that the defense is good (this defense is leading the country in the least number of rushes over 20 yards given up) and some that show they are absolutely awful (121st in pass yards given up), and it’s really a coin flip to determine which defense shows up on any given play. Having said all that, this is a better defense than last year, and they have an identity now. They’ll be aggressive and try to force turnovers. They’ll bend, but they won’t break. Look out for Edefuan Ulofoshio, Mishael (Meesh) Powell and Jabbar Muhammad to try and give Bryson Barnes fits in the pass game and look for the UW D-Line to try and stuff runs at the line.

Q & A No. 5

MB: Washington has had a few close calls with some surprising teams this year. What has this group done well as a team to pull out some of those grind-them-out wins to stay undefeated to this point? What lessons could Utah draw from those games to be the one to finally give UW a loss?

MS: In a word, it’s been about perseverance. The Dawgs have overcome so many obstacles because they have had the belief that they can win. There has been some luck involved (If Meesh Powell doesn’t jump the route, or if Stanford completes that wide receiver pass, it’s probably game over). But the great teams find ways to win and UW has shown that they can in a variety of ways. Now, for Utah to win this game, it’s incumbent on them to control the clock, and have an out-of-his-mind performance from somebody they would never expect. But for me, I think Utah will keep it close, but Washington will win in the end.

Score Prediction

MB: It’s time for a score prediction! What will the score of this game be?

MS: Washington- 45, Utah-38

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Opponent Q & A: Washington Huskies