- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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SEATTLE -- The day is postcard perfect. Renovated Husky Stadium is spectacular. Now, what about the team that will call it home?
No. 19 Boise State isn't a team that gets intimidated by the big-time atmosphere in an AQ conference team's stadium, fancypants remodel or not. In fact, the Broncos thrive on encountering that very thing. The Huskies could have scheduled a patsy for their stadium opening, but they opted to challenge themselves. The payoff for a win could be substantial, starting with a national ranking. And a loss could have the same effect, only in a negative sense.
There should be some familiarity considering that Boise State beat the Huskies 28-26 in the Las Vegas Bowl last December, a back-and-forth affair that saw the Huskies fall behind early, mount a massive comeback to take the lead, then fold in the waning moments.
That familiarity will be more for Boise State, though. The Broncos only have 10 starters returning from last year's 11-2 team. The Huskies have 20 from a 7-6 squad that ended the season with a dreary two-game losing streak.
Of course, one of those returning starters, All-American tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins -- the Huskies' best player -- won't play. He's been suspended due to an offseason DUI. That means quarterback Keith Price will be missing one of his most dangerous and reliable weapons.
Price may be where this game turns. If he's the efficient playmaker he was in 2011, the Huskies should be in good shape. If he's the guy who was inconsistent and turnover prone in 2012, they probably will struggle against a team that knows how to take advantage of bumbling AQ conference teams -- see a list of victims that includes powers such as Oklahoma, Georgia and Oregon, to name only a few.
Price's counterpart, Joe Southwick, is a second-year starter who played well over the latter third of the 2012 season. He doesn't, however, have a lot of experience playing in the sort of atmosphere he'll face tonight. The Broncos lost 17-13 at Michigan State to open their 2012 season with Southwick behind center for his first start, but that's his only experience in front of 70,000-plus fans.
So, in the end, Husky Stadium itself might have a role to play. With a hopeful and re-energized fan base packing the stands like the old days, this venue could again become one of the nation's loudest. The removal of the track that formally surrounded the field has moved the stands closer to the action, so the acoustics should be even better for making an opposing offense incapable of communcation.
Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian has tried to emphasize that one game doesn't a season make, win or lose. But Washington fans are impatient after three consecutive seven-win seasons. They want more, such as national rankings and Pac-12 titles.
Beating Boise State would be a big first step toward national relevance. And a loss would be a step in the opposite direction.
1dChantel Jennings and Ted Miller