The Huskies take on a familiar face in their belated season opener
Both Smith and Lake were assistants under Chris Petersen and played key roles in the program's resurgence. Smith left for his alma mater ahead of the 2018 season and has overseen some dramatic improvements in just two years — but a season-opening loss to Washington State has the Beavers in something of an early desperation mode during this pandemic-shortened campaign.
Lake, meanwhile, is making his debut at the helm of Washington. Lake's tireless recruiting and innovative approach as defensive coordinator made Washington one of the most fearsome defensive teams in college football. The Huskies' first game of the Lake era at Cal was canceled, so much of what will be on display Saturday off Montlake is a bit of a mystery.
Oregon State at Washington
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 14 at 11 p.m. ET
Spread: Washington -13.5
When Oregon State Has the Ball
The Beavers dug a three-touchdown hole last week against Washington State but came alive in the second half. Quarterback Tristan Gebbia, a Nebraska transfer and back-up to the wildly underrated Jake Luton a season ago, settled in after halftime and completed 16 of 19 passes over one stretch.
Oregon State's passing attack lost a big part of its punch with Isaiah Hodgins gone, but Trevon Bradford is a capable No. 1 receiver. In the meantime, Jermar Jefferson is one of the best ball-carriers in college football. After missing some time due to injury last season, he looked to be back to his 2018 form with three touchdowns against the Cougars.
Another sluggish start this week, however, could snowball much worse than it did against Washington State. The Huskies lose some key contributors on defense, namely linemen Joe Tryon and Levi Onwuzurike, but plenty more talented defenders are primed to step in. Lake's familiarity with Smith, and vice versa, will make for an interesting chess match.
When Washington Has the Ball
The biggest unknown for Washington as it debuts in a new era is the look of its offense. Longtime NFL assistant John Donovan now oversees an offense with a new quarterback — and with zero indication who among the four competing for the job will start.
Regardless of which quarterback takes the field, expect Washington to hammer away with the run early and often. Washington State sprung a surprising ground game effectively against Oregon State, and Washington comes into Saturday's contest with a more established stable of ball-carriers. Chief among them, Richard Newton — a standout in his freshman 2019 campaign — could be ready to break through as the clear heir to Myles Gaskin.
Talented Oregon State pass rusher Rashed Hamilcar Jr. will lead the effort to disrupt the quarterback as much as possible. The Beavers' best hope is to render Washington as one-dimensional as possible. They will need a much stronger performance than their zero-sack, three-TFL game last week.
Washington's first game with a new head coach, new quarterback, and new offensive coordinator magnifies the prospect of field rust that plagues most teams in their opener. The experience Oregon State comes into its second game with could be a huge boon. If not, though, Oregon State must avoid another sluggish opening.
Prediction: Washington 27, Oregon State 17
— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.
(Top photo courtesy of @UW_Football)