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September 2, 2011Matchup: Eastern Washington Eagles at Washington Huskies
Kickoff: Saturday, 4 p.m., Husky Stadium, Seattle
TV, Radio: The game will be televised locally on Root sports with Warren Moon, Jason Stiles and Jen Mueller providing commentary. It can be heard on the radio on 950-AM KJR with Bob Rondeau doing the play-by-play, Damon Huard doing color commentary and Elise Woodward reporting from the sideline.
Coaches: Steve Sarkisian, Washington (third year); Beau Baldwin, Eastern (fourth year)
Series: The two teams have never played each other, and this game marks the first time Washington will play an FCS opponent.
About the Eagles: Coming off their FCS national championship and being ranked the No. 1 team in the country, the Eagles are clearly the class of their division. They are led by their quarterback, senior Bo Levi Mitchell, who last season threw for nearly 3,500 yards and a school-record 37 touchdowns. Coming into this season he has been put on the list of 20 player watch for the Walter Payton Award that is presented annually by The Sports Network to the nation's top Football Championship Subdivision player. The Eagles offense is successful behind Mitchell because of the tempo it carries. They like to snap the ball with nearly 25 seconds left on the play clock. Mitchell and the Eagles will use plenty of five-receiver sets on offense, which could be successful, especially if the Huskies continue to battle health problems. Demetrius Bronson is another interesting player to watch, but it's tough to tell if he'll get much playing time. He was with Washington for two years before leaving when he was unable to crack the tailback rotation. Now he is in a group of running backs that is trying to fill the hole left by former FCS All-American Taiwan Jones, who is now with the Oakland Raiders.
About the Huskies: The biggest difference heading into this season for the Huskies is that they no longer have Jake Locker under center. Instead, they are led by redshirt sophomore Keith Price, whose lone start was at Oregon last season. He has been impressive in practices, but with just one career start, it's impossible to know what to expect come game time. The Huskies will rely heavily on their running game, which could come from several different options. Chris Polk may miss the game, and if he is out, the Huskies have talented backups in Jesse Callier, Johri Fogerson and Bishop Sankey. Behind an improved offensive line, the Huskies should have very little problem running the football this season. Washington also has the luxury of a deep group of pass catchers for Price to throw to. Led by senior Jermaine Kearse, the receivers go six deep and Sarkisian expects all of them, even true freshman Kasen Williams, to make an impact. Tight ends Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Michael Hartvigson also project to be impact players from a position the Huskies have lacked any production from in recent seasons.
Defensively, the Huskies appear to be anchored by their front four, namely defensive tackle Alameda Ta'Amu. He was a force to finish the 2010 season and has come back looking even more dominant this year. With the help of an outside pass rush, the Huskies should be able to help a secondary that looks to be the weakness of the defense. Desmond Trufant is one cornerback the Huskies can lean on, but after him, the rest of the defensive backs are largely unproven.
What to expect: The Huskies are much bigger, stronger and deeper than the Eagles. The question is whether Washington is fast enough to stick with Eastern. The Huskies probably are, but it won't matter in this one because after the first quarter, the running game of the Huskies will have worn out Eastern's front seven. Eastern will put up some points in the game thanks to its quick offense and five-receiver sets. The beginning of the game might stay close and Eastern could hang around longer than the Huskies may hope, but in the end, the Huskies are simply too much for the Eagles. Whether it is Polk, Callier, Fogerson or Sankey, the second half will be full of Washington running the ball over and over again to a big victory.
UDubNation.com pick: Washington, 47-24
Follow UDubNation's Mitchell Larsen for game-day updates on Twitter @MLarsen_Rivals