Washington's mission vs. LSU

Huskies can establish a new identity with a physical performance on D

Originally Published: September 5, 2012
By Rod Gilmore | ESPN Insider
Steve SarkisianAP Photo/Ted S. WarrenThe perception of Steve Sarkisian's Huskies will change one way or another against LSU.

Mike VI, the adult tiger mascot of the LSU Tigers, did not show up for LSU's home opener against North Texas on Saturday. Mike VI didn't feel like getting into his travel cage, and his handlers thought it best to not force him into it. Sounds like a good call to me.

But while LSU fans want to know whether Mike VI will be in attendance for the Tigers' game against the Washington Huskies this Saturday, UW fans are wondering whether their team should show up at all. The Huskies go to Baton Rouge as 22-point underdogs, the second-largest underdog role for the Huskies during Steve Sarkisian's four-year tenure. (They were 36-point underdogs to Oregon in 2010 and lost that game 53-16.)

With a string of blowout losses last season to quality opponents, Husky fans are understandably nervous about facing the No. 3 ranked and SEC powerhouse Tigers. Last year, all six of Washington's losses were by double digits -- five were by at least 17 points. The image of Robert Griffin III and Baylor lighting up the Alamo Bowl scoreboard with 67 points is still pretty fresh. What might LSU do to the Huskies?

These concerns are legitimate, and don't get me wrong: I'm picking LSU to beat Washington this weekend. But there's more at stake than just a win in what is the biggest game of the Sarkisian era at UW.

A blowout loss to the Tigers on Saturday would reinforce the opinions of many that the Huskies are just a typical, soft Pac-12 team. But I believe the Huskies are closer to playing good, physical defense than most realize, and that they have the opportunity to set the tone for the rest of their season on Saturday by playing LSU close.

Rod Gilmore

College Football analyst
Rod Gilmore serves as an ESPN studio analyst on SportsCenter and College Football Live, and provides commentary on ESPN's Friday night game telecasts. He writes regularly for ESPN Insider.