BYU has won the last three meetings against Washington, in 2010, 2008, and 1999, before that Washington had won four in a row between '86 and '98. The upcoming installment in the series, on December 27th in San Francisco, will be between two teams that have never played each other, and two teams that are largely different than those who have faced off in the past.
BYU has matched up surprisingly well against highly talented Washington teams, let's look at the last game which happened in 2010 in Provo, UT. BYU was led by Riley Nelson and JJ Di Luigi, two decent players, but nothing to write home about. Washington on the other hand was led by Jake Locker, Chris Polk, and Jermaine Kearse, maybe you've heard of them recently, Locker started for the Tennessee Titans this season until being injured, Chris Polk has played in three games for the Philadelphia Eagles and has 86 yards and two touchdowns, and Jermain Kearse has hauled in 339 yards and 4 TDs on the season for the Seattle Seahawks. The point is, Washington teams have NFL talent. They have in the past, and they do again this year. BYU may not get as much regular attention from NFL scouts, but solid defense and good coaching have allowed the Cougars to match up well (and win) against the Huskies in recent years.
This year Washington is led by quarterback Keith Price, a senior that brings mobility to the pocket as well as a good passing arm. He is a bit like Marcus Mariotta lite, this year he has developed into a much better passer and has had to scramble less, but the offensive line has had some trouble protecting him (given up 27 sacks), especially against some of the elite Pac-12 defenses (Stanford, UCLA). Price has been a good leader for the Huskies, but has struggled sometimes making good decisions which has contributed to his sacks and five interceptions. Price has struggled a little with injuries, but has been backed up by red shirt freshman Cyrus Miles who has performed surprisingly well, including a big win over Oregon State.
Washington's quarterbacks have played well, but are benefited by the security of their running game. The Huskies have been a run first team led by power running back, Bishop Sankey (check out his highlights below). He has run for 1,775 yards this year with 18 touchdowns on 306 carries, that accounts for more than half of the team's rushing attempts and 60 percent of their yardage on the ground. (The next closest Husky to match Sankey's production is a freshman with 47 attempts and 332 yards.) Sankey is a downhill runner, especially great in the red zone and in short-yard situations, BYU's defensive line will be challenged stopping him, but doing so may very well be the key to the game for the Cougars.
On defense the Huskies have an exceptional secondary and a good pass rush (recording 36 sacks), ranking 7th in the nation defending pass plays (according to S&P+ stats). Their run defense has struggled some though, ranking 45th, although you have to take that with a grain of salt because Washington has faced two of the nations top 10 rushers from Arizona and Stanford (Ka'deem Carey and Tyler Gaffney). BYU has developed a strong run-first offense that may expose a weakness in Washington, but you can be sure that Washington will do their best to make BYU go to the air, make Taysom Hill uncomfortable in the pocket, and take advantage of their strong secondary and pass rush.
Washington is a good team, with some great players, BYU will have to bring their A-game and keep an eye on #25 (Bishop Sankey) any time he's on the field. If they do, and keep Washington from running away, they have a chance to win the game. It will be an exciting and competitive game, likely coming down to the final possession. In the end, I think Washington's recent coaching changes will turn into a beneficent for BYU and the Cougars, and some of our younger talent will continue to show improvements (after the four weeks to practice), and BYU will come away with the win.
I predict BYU 31, Washington 28
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