Publish date:

Huskies Near Consensus Underdog Entering the Big House

The prognosticators lose faith in the UW football team following its upset loss to Montana.
Author:

The University of Washington football team now knows what Montana went through before last weekend's game in Seattle.

Almost every national prognosticator is picking the Huskies to beat Michigan on Saturday night at the Big House. Few exceptions. 

Against the Big Sky school the week before, no one predicted they would lose.

A unprecedented defeat to an FCS opponent will do that to you, punishing you and your reputation beyond belief. 

After watching Montana shock the UW 13-7, a lot of outraged fans quickly made up their minds about Jimmy Lake and what he brings to the Husky head-coaching job.

Wrong barometer.

No, the game that should be used more to formulate a strong opinion about the capabilities of Lake, the UW leader for all of five games now, is this one. It's the ultimate test. 

He's in the heart of Big Ten country, never an easy assignment.

He's dwarfed by Michigan Stadium, the biggest stadium of all of college football, which should welcome a crowd of 100-plus even during the pandemic surge. Tickets cost $527 each. Imagine that gate-receipts for this one.

He finds him and his team in the crosshairs of an ABC-TV national broadcast to every home in America, one that doesn't permit anyone to hide or be timid.

He's coming off the worst loss in UW football annals, which means a setback here can't compare to that one.

Somewhat lost in all of the coach-bashing and his repeated apologies this week is the fact the Huskies will play on the road for the first time in 658 days, the longest such FBS streak since 1980.  

The Huskies, with Chris Petersen in charge and Lake as his defensive coordinator and defensive-backs coach, last played in an enemy stadium on Nov. 23, 2019, at Colorado, where they lost 20-14.

Lake's guys are hoping they can replace their disappointment and embarrassment with the excitement of going primetime. 

"That's why you come here," UW sixth-year center Luke Wattenberg said before leaving Seattle, "is for big games like this."

Hold That Reunion

Wide receiver Ja'Lynn Polk and quarterback Alan Bowman were Texas Tech teammates last year who left for Washington and Michigan, respectively, likely thinking they would be facing each other on Saturday. Polk's season last just one play against Montana; he suffered a chest injury after a 13-yard pass reception against Montana and had emergency surgery. Bowman is the third-team Michigan QB and hasn't played yet.

Relocated Beaver

The Wolverines, with a lot of offseason portal activity, added a familiar Pac-12 face in former Oregon State defensive tackle Jordan Whittley, a 6-foot-1, 346-pounder from Richmond, California. He practiced with the Beavers but didn't play during the 2020  season because of ongoing COVID-19 concerns. He came off the bench for Michigan in the opener against Western Michigan.

Deal Him In

Cade McNamara is from Reno, Nevada, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound junior and the Wolverines' quarterback starter. A 4-star recruit, he wasn't pursued by the Huskies. His playing experience is minimal, with two starts among five appearances. His brother Kyle was a Michigan receiver.

No Bell

For the rest of the season, the Wolverines will go without top wide receiver Ronnie Bell, who hurt his right knee against Western Michigan while returning a punt 31 yards. He had to be helped off the field. The 6-foot senior from Kansas City caught a 76-yard touchdown pass earlier in the game, making a highlight-reel fingertip reception. Bell won't have to petition for more eligibility; he has a redshirt season that's gone unused. 

Radio Silence

Long-time Michigan radio play-by-play announcer Jim Brandstatter announced just before kickoff for the Western Michigan opener that he and analyst Dan Dierdorf will retire at season's end. "As Crash Davis said at the end of 'Bull Durham,' we're hanging 'em up," Brandstatter said during the broadcast.

ABC Voices

The Washington-Michigan game will air on ABC television, with Sean McDonouogh (play by play), Todd Blackledge (color), and Molly McGrath (sideline) calling the action. The TV broadcast can also be viewed at ESPN.com/watch.

Find Husky Maven on Facebook by searching: Husky Maven/Sports Illustrated

Follow Dan Raley of Husky Maven on Twitter: @DanRaley1 and @HuskyMaven