The Washington Huskies maintained their No. 6 standing in the Associated Press poll after defeating Colorado in their Pac-12 opener last week in a rematch of the 2016 conference title game. This week they head to Corvallis to face an Oregon State team that has been blown out three times in four games this season, including against WSU on Sept. 16. Here are four keys to the game from 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock Huard.
1. Expect the unexpected from a team coming off a bye week.
There’s a little danger in the unknown when your opponent is coming off a bye week. I just covered a game with Arkansas, which had a bye week early in the season, and they had a lot of new packages. Oregon State could do that, and it could also zero in and say, ‘This is what we thought going into the year, but after these four weeks, we just can’t do this and we can’t do that.’ You’re going to see a streamlined plan from the Beavers. Another advantage getting a bye week early is you typically are going to be pretty physical in that first game back. You’re going to get some guys back that may have been nicked up, or some guys that were nicked up just needed the rest. My bet is Oregon State coach Gary Andersen is embarrassed with their start. The Huskies have to be prepared for some of the unknown to adjust, because that first quarter may have a feeling-out process. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Huskies play in their base packages and not be overly aggressive offensively or defensively so they can get a gauge on exactly what Oregon State used their bye week for.
2. Chico McClatcher’s injury opens the door to true freshman Salvon Ahmed.
I think the question remains who will be Washington’s No. 2 wide receiver. Dante Pettis is clearly the No. 1 after he was clearly the No. 2 to John Ross last year. People thought it could be Chico McClatcher this season, but it didn’t necessarily turn out to be that way this month, and now he’s out for the year with a broken ankle. I’ll keep my eye on Salvon Ahmed, who like Seahawks running back Chris Carson is a rookie in town that has shown that no moment is too big for him. He is electric fast and been used on jet sweeps, end-arounds and quick screens. Are there even more ways to get him touches? If you’re going to be a true freshman playing for Chris Petersen and his staff, you have to gain that trust and prove to them that you can handle that load. I don’t see anything through the first month of the season that proves Ahmed cannot do that.
3. Keep making steady progress in the run game.
After last week’s win over Colorado, Chris Petersen nailed the biggest thing with the offensive line in his postgame comments – they were still patient. There were plenty of runs that amounted to 2 yards or less, but the Huskies stuck with it and you didn’t see guys on their side of the line of scrimmage. You didn’t see negative plays. Yeah, they may not have hit on big runs, but like Petersen said, just get a body on a body and Myles Gaskin will do the rest. You don’t need an incredible push or to mow people into the second level. Gaskin will make people miss and get those extra yards. Washington’s commitment to that with a seven-play drive of all runs in the fourth quarter against the Buffaloes really put the nail in the coffin, and that’s something that you can build on to move forward.
4. Time for a breakout game from safety JoJo McIntosh.
I thought coming into the year we would call JoJo McIntosh’s name and number and feel his presence a lot more. So far this season it’s been a little bit more about the cornerbacks in Washington’s secondary, but this may be a game where he has an opportunity to stand out. Considering how limited Oregon State can be in the passing game, he could get a little closer to the line of scrimmage and be a whole lot more active. He’s a guy that I had high hopes for this season – he really transformed his body and was much more physical. And I don’t think he’s necessarily played poorly, but he’s just not been the highlight reel guy yet. That could change Saturday.