Thursday, December 29, 2011

Alamo Bowl preview

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies(7-5,5-4) are set to take on the #12 Baylor Bears(9-3,6-3) in the Alamo Bowl set in San Antonio, Texas which is three hours from the Baylor campus. Both teams feature explosive offenses led by Baylor's Robert Griffin III who won the heisman trophy. The Baylor offense is averaging 43.5 points per game which is good for seventh in the entire nation. While the Huskies offense which is led by Chris Polk is averaging 31.5 point per game which is good for 36th in the nation. This should be a high scoring game with two quality offenses going up against two weak defenses. The Bears defense is allowing 35.7 points per game which ranks 109th in the country while the Huskies defense is allowing 33.3 points per game which ranks 99th in the country. For what has been a boring bowl season so far this game should generate plenty of excitement to the casual fans.

You can't talk about the Bears mighty offense without first talking about heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III who if he leaves for the NFL would be a top 10 pick in the draft. Griffin is trying to lead the Bears to a 10 win season which was once unthinkable. For the year he completed 72.4% of his passes for 3,998 yards(10.8 YPA). He threw for 36 touchdowns to only six interceptions during the season. His passing stats alone are terrific then you factor in his 644 yards rushing(4.0 YPC) with nine touchdowns and you can see why he won the heisman trophy. His favorite targets are Kendall Wright who hauled in 101 receptions for 1,572 yards(15.6 YPC) with 13 TD's. The second weapon for this passing offense which ranks fifth in the nation is Terrance Williams who caught 53 passes for 895 yards(16.9 YPC) with 11 touchdowns. The Bears have a third receiver who is having a fine season in Tevin Reese who has caught 46 passes for 811 yards(17.6) with seven touchdowns. The Bears can also run the ball as they feature Terrence Ganaway who rushed for 1,347(5.9 YPC) with 16 touchdowns. The Bears offense features plenty of weapons on offense and for the Huskies to win they must keep that offense on the sidelines.

The Huskies need to do what they did last year in the Holiday Bowl win. Last year Sarkisian fed Chris Polk the ball over and over again as the Nebraska offense sat on the sidelines. Polk on the year has rushed for 1,341 yards(5.1 YPC) with 11 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 29 passes for 324 yards(11.2 YPC) with four touchdowns. Which earned Polk first team all pac-12 selection.  Polk currently trails Napoleon Kaufman by 200 yards for the all-time rushing lead in school history. Polk also has quality backup running backs if he needs a breather. Jesse Callier for the season has rushed for 264 yards(5.9 YPC) with a touchdown. He has also caught six passes. Remember last year in the Holiday Bowl Callier completed a 14 yard pass to Jake Locker to set up the first score. Bishop Sankey has ran for 187 yards(6.7 YPC) with a touchdown and also has caught six passes. Sankey is pretty quick and can bust a long run everytime he touches the ball. The Bears defense allows 198 yards rushing per game so the Huskies should pound the ball on them. If the Bears decide to stack the box well the Huskies also have a good passing game too.

The Huskies passing offense is led by sophomore quarterback Keith Price. Price who is filling in for Jake Locker who set plenty of records at Washington. For this year it was Price who set a record for most passing touchdowns in a single season. Price for the year completed 67.4% of his passes for 2,625 yards(8.1 YPA) with 29 touchdown passes(school record) to just 11 interceptions. Price has plenty of weapons to throw to as well as he spreads the ball around the field to multiple talented receivers.  Price was selected to honorable mention all pac-12 and in a normal year could have been more but with Andrew Luch and Matt Barkley that makes it tough. His two leading receivers are both seniors and honorable all pac-12 receivers Devin Aguilar and Jermaine Kearse. Aguilar caught 36 passes for 521 yards(14.5 YPC) with four touchdowns. Kearse caught 42 for 501(11.9) with six touchdowns while also rushing for a touchdown as well. Freshman sensation Kasen Williams has emerged lately and has caught 33 passes for 408 yards(12.4 YPC) with six touchdowns. James Johnson added 26 receptions for 330 yards(12.7 YPC) with three touchdowns. The Huskies also feature honorable mention all pac-12 freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins who caught 36 passes for 479 yards(13.3 YPC) with six touchdowns. The Huskies also have plenty of offensive weapons to compete with the Bears. The key to this game will also be how the defense responds.

Last year when the Huskies won the Holiday Bowl all the attention was on the offense. When in reality the Huskies won 19-7 as the defense stepped up setting up the first score and eventually getting a safety. Mason Foster was the defensive MVP as he was all over the field. While Alameda Ta'amu just as easily could have been the MVP as well. He recovered the fumble that set up the first score, recorded two sacks and was also held which allowed the safety. Ta'amu who is a projected late first or early second round draft pick is playing his final game as a Husky. Ta'amu was honorable mention this year as he was injured throughout the season. Another Husky defender playing in his final game is Cort Dennison who led the Pac-12 in tackles and earned second team all pac-12 selection. The defense must step up if they expect to pull off this upset. Nobody is expecting them to shut down Baylor like they did last year with Nebraska but nobody will accept games where they allow over 40 like they did against Nebraska, Stanford, and USC. The defense must play tough in the redzone and hold the Bears to three points instead of seven points that could be the difference between winning and losing.

In conclusion, with Griffin winning the Heisman this will be the featured bowl game amongst the games not in the BCS. The Huskies have a great chance to impress the nation with a win against a quality opponent for the second straight year. For Sarkisian who is having a rough day losing out on an in-state recruit earlier today he can remove the doubt that he is the guy with a win today. With a win today Sarkisian will tie Jim Owens for second all-time in Huskies history for most bowl victories with two. With a win today the program will have made progress improving their win total each season under Sarkisian. With a win to day the Huskies will have won back to back bowl games for the first time in 20 years. This game is huge for the Huskies and their opponent for the second straight year is favored to destroy them. This is a huge test for the Huskies who failed so many throughout the year. Maybe tonight is the night the Huskies finally pass that final exam.

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