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University of Washington Huskies Football

Things to watch: No. 15 Washington hopes to avoid letdown against Colorado

By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

What: Colorado (1-9, 1-6 Pac-12) at No. 15 Washington (8-2, 5-2)

When: 6 p.m., Saturday

Where: Husky Stadium

TV: Pac-12 Network

Latest line: Huskies by 31

UW key players

• QB Michael Penix Jr.: 67.1% completions, 3,640 passing yards, 25 pass TD, 6 INT, 2 rush TD

• WR Jalen McMillan: 57 catches, 792 receiving yards, 13.9 yards per reception, 6 TD

• S Alex Cook: 65 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss

• Edge Bralen Trice: 28 tackles, 10 TFL, 7 sacks

CU key players

• QB J.T. Shrout: 44.5% completions, 1,100 passing yards, 6 pass TD, 7 INT, 1 rush TD

• RB Alex Fontenot: 233 rushing yards, 4.96 yards per carry, 1 TD, 49 receiving yards

• LB Josh Chandler-Semedo: 86 tackles, 10 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 fumble recovery

• DB Trevor Woods: 79 tackles, 4 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, 2 TFL

Stuffing the run

OK, so Colorado doesn’t really do anything well, as evidenced by the Buffaloes’ 1-9 record. But senior running back Alex Fontenot did rush for 108 yards, 5.4 yards per carry and a touchdown (with a long of 37 yards) in last week’s 55-17 loss to USC. So that’s not nothing, right? Couple that with the fact that UW surrendered 312 rushing yards, 6.1 yards per carry and two rushing scores – while missing 19 (!) tackles, per Pro Football Focus – in the Huskies’ win over Oregon, and Colorado’s offensive focus on Saturday becomes increasingly clear. If UW’s defensive linemen, linebackers and safeties can consistently tackle Fontenot, the Huskies will be fine. (And even if they can’t, UW might be fine anyway.) The emphasis here should be on linebackers Cam Bright, Alphonzo Tuputala, Edefuan Ulofoshio and Co. and safeties Alex Cook and Asa Turner to get the job done.

Seeing red

Michael Penix Jr. was nearly perfect against Oregon, completing 26 of 35 passes (74%) for 408 yards and two touchdowns. But his one glaring mistake was a forced interception on first-and-goal from the Oregon 1-yard line. Indeed, while Washington’s offense is consistently explosive, the Huskies rank just seventh in the Pac-12 in red-zone touchdown percentage – reaching the end zone on 66.04% of their red zone trips. (That’s still their highest number since 2017, which says something about UW’s persistent red zone problems.) Colorado, meanwhile, ranks last in the Pac-12 in red zone touchdown percentage (48.15%) and 11th in opponent red-zone touchdown percentage (74.55%). If UW can be efficient inside the 20s, this game should not be close.

Avoiding the letdown

There can be no more classic letdown scenario than a senior day game against a 1-9 opponent sandwiched between match-ups against a program’s two primary rivals. That’s what UW coach Kalen DeBoer has here, as his team just vanquished Oregon in an all-time classic last week and will look to take back the Apple Cup against Washington State last week. The Huskies still have a remote shot at a Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl berth, so the significance of Saturday’s game should not be in doubt. But even Colorado – arguably the worst Power Five program in 2022 – can beat a team that fails to show up. If Washington takes Saturday seriously, the Huskies will walk away with a senior day win. That’s the challenge as much as anything else.

Vorel’s prediction

It’ll be open season on senior day. Colorado ranks last in the Pac-12 in opponent pass efficiency rating (163.06), opponent touchdown passes (25) and opponent yards per pass attempt (8.6). And with an interim head coach in Mike Sanford Jr., the Buffaloes have little motivation to put up a fight as they limp toward a one-win season. UW sophomore wide receiver Rome Odunze is 86 yards shy of 1,000 receiving yards, and he may be able to pass that mark this weekend. The Husky pass rush should also get home against an immobile quarterback in Colorado’s J.T. Shrout. Against an inferior opponent, DeBoer should challenge UW’s defense to bounce back and gain confidence before the Apple Cup against WSU. The UW offense will overwhelm and Washington will wrap up an undefeated 7-0 season inside Husky Stadium.

Final score: Huskies 51, Buffaloes 20