SEATTLE — Something's got to give today in Husky Stadium.

Washington has a proud and stingy home field in which they lose home-openers only about 30 percent of the time.

BYU's trying to hatchet itself out of an 0-9 coffin in these non-league road games, dating back to 2002 in Logan.

Husky coach Ty Willingham, once named the "Sporting News" Man of the Year when he was winning at Notre Dame, has his back, heels, elbows and noggin pushed up against the wall. He's got to start winning at Washington.

BYU's lofty No. 15 ranking and Quest for Perfection are nakedly on the line at a place many have stumbled.

Washington is struggling.

BYU is favored to win by 9.5 points and, if it doesn't, three years of credibility built by Bronco Mendenhall will be rocked.

This is the scene of today's showdown between the Cougars and Huskies.

For the Cougars, the only way they lose this game is if Max Hall is injured in the first half, the team suffers four or five turnovers and gives up kickoff returns for touchdowns.

For the Huskies, there are many ways they lose this game, especially if they play defense and tackle like they didn't last week at Oregon.

For the Cougars, the big focus of the defense will be Husky sophomore quarterback Jake Locker, a giant of a player with change-of-direction speed that is deceptive and deadly for such a big guy.

"Obviously their quarterback is their main player," said BYU defensive coordinator Jaime Hill. "He's very, very talented. We have to make sure we do everything we can to contain him. Their offensive line is very experienced, with four of the five starters back. Their running backs are young but talented, so are their receivers. The main focal point of their offense is the quarterback.

"Teams have tried to bottle him up and make sure he throws the ball. We'll do that sometimes and other times don't let him throw the ball; we'll do a little of both."

Locker? Who is this man and why is he so feared? Is his name Kal-El and did he drop in from some dying planet?

"He's faster than anybody on the field," Hill said.

But does he option, does he sprint out, does he QB sneak?

"He's faster than anybody on the field," the coach repeated.

"They have designed plays just for him. They've had 15 plays designed for him. This last game they had only five plays designed for just him, he touched it 10 times, but most of them were scrambles that he just took off running. He's most dangerous in a scramble situation. At least with the designed plays, you have blocks you can work to overcome."

Hill said it's seriously simple: Do not let Jake Locker create plays for himself.

The last time I covered a BYU game at Husky Stadium, in 1996, that Cougar team's main focus before kickoff was wardrobe issues. And it showed. That group gave up a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and missed three field goals in losing 29-17. They never lost another game that season.

"That won't happen to this team," promised volunteer assistant coach Mark Atuaia, who was on that 1996 team.

We shall see.

Here are my Mountain West picks for the week:

UTAH 33, UNLV 10: This type of motivation game has Kyle Whittingham's name etched on it with gold inset type.

He won't order an onside kick with his team up by 42 points, but he'll have his squad frothy at the mouth before the anthem. The most interesting thing will be to see how Utah's defense handles a smash-nose runner like Frank Summers, who will test the soft belly of that defense, an injured interior Ute defensive line.

AIR FORCE 23, WYOMING 17: The Cowboys find a way to quit turning over the ball and they'll have a chance to protect their home turf.

AFA's execution will be the difference in this game in Laramie.

COLORADO STATE 17, SAC STATE 10: The Rams are in dire need of a win, any win, and this game was scheduled as the main dish.

TEXAS A&M 28, NEW MEXICO 17: Donovan Porterie's neck should be healed just in time for the Lobos to absorb another home loss. The Lobos will be good, but TCU slapped them around last week in Albuquerque and Rocky Long's troops need some more time to grow up.

NOTRE DAME 27, SAN DIEGO STATE 10: All you have to know about this game is the Aztecs lost at home last week to Cal Poly.

TCU 28, STEPHEN F. AUSTIN 24: Perhaps we need to salute and respect the Frogs more astutely after they needed just 75 total yards on offense to score 26 points last week at New Mexico. Deeee-feeense.

BYU 34, WASHINGTON 17: BYU's offense will set the tone, pace and score against a Husky team that should be geared for a do-or-die donnybrook. Respect Washington's offense with Locker, but on the other side of the ball the Cougars should find a recipe for some big plays.


E-mail: harmon@desnews.com