SEATTLE -- The truly scary portion of Washington's schedule has finally arrived -- and it might be even tougher than first thought.
The brutal stretch begins on Thursday night when the Huskies host No. 8 Stanford in a national telecast that will serve as Washington's first chance to erase perceptions created by a 41-3 loss at LSU earlier this month.
After the Cardinal, the Huskies travel to No. 2 Oregon and then are home for No. 13 USC. That was thought to be the conclusion to the Huskies' (2-1) difficult stretch. But it won't get any easier with a trip to Arizona -- which had moved into Top 25 until a loss against the Ducks -- followed by a home game against No. 18 Oregon State.
That's four ranked teams in five weeks for the Huskies to navigate and they'll likely need at least one victory during that stretch to keep their hopes for a third straight bowl appearance alive.
And by getting Stanford first, the Huskies not only get a chance to rid themselves of the shadow of what happened in Baton Rouge, but also to get redemption for a 65-21 loss to the Cardinal a year ago.
"You never want to get embarrassed like that," wide receiver Kasen Williams said. "You still have that bad taste in your mouth from years past. You want to get back at them someway, somehow and we've had to wait a full year to do it.”
Facing a trying schedule isn't completely unfamiliar to Washington, but the results haven't really been good in the past. Two years ago, the Huskies faced six ranked opponents in a seven-week span and went 2-5 during the stretch, with upsets of USC and Oregon State. Washington also played five ranked opponents in six weeks in both the 2007 and 2005 seasons, going 1-5 each time.
Washington's received a little extra time to prepare for the Cardinal, thanks to its lone bye week of the regular season. When the Huskies wrapped up their 52-13 win over Portland State on Sept. 15, it was expected that they would be facing another Top 25 foe when Stanford came to town.
But the significance of the Cardinal's visit was ramped up later that night when Stanford finished off its upset of USC, vaulting them into the Top 10. The Cardinal pulled off the upset largely on the legs of running back Stepfan Taylor, who rushed for 153 yards against the Trojans. And he's someone the Huskies are very familiar with after he needed just 10 carries to run for a then career-best 138 yards last season, part of the 446 yards on the ground the Huskies surrendered.
"He's not only leading them in rushing but he's leading them in receiving. The screen game was a big part of what they do offensively," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday. "I thought he was probably one of the bigger factors for them offensively against SC.”
While slowing down the Stanford run game will be a huge priority, almost as important will be protecting Washington QB Keith Price, who will again be playing behind a makeshift offensive line.
Sarkisian confirmed Monday that guard Colin Tanigawa will not play again this season because of a knee injury, although no specifics were given. Tanigawa is the fourth offensive line starter to be lost since spring practice. Colin Porter retired due to chronic shoulder problems last spring, tackle Erik Kohler suffered a knee injury and tackle Ben Riva broke a forearm.
"We've really challenged them not only mentally but physically and I think the bye week was good for them to assess their performance in the Portland State game and what they needed to work on," Sarkisian said. "We've seen definite improvement there. But again, time will tell and we will find out Thursday. They've got a great task ahead of them, Stanford's front is tremendous.”