SEATTLE — David and Goliath. That's what we're looking at this week.
And yes, Montana is "David" in this scenario.
"Goliath" is an incredibly talented, top-10 team in the FBS with one of the best quarterbacks in college football. And one of the best linebackers. And one of the best punt returners. And two of the best defensive linemen ... the list goes on.
I don't have to say that the Griz have their work cut out for them. They already know that. Coach Bob Stitt has already said that himself, as he said back on Monday that this Washington team is the toughest he's faced in his 20-plus years of coaching.
Of course, regardless of what the scoreboard reads on Saturday, Montana will go home a winner, or at least its checkbook will. The Griz get a whopping $625,000 for playing in the game — as well as monetary incentives for the coaches.
Here are five things to watch for during Saturday's game:
UW's defensive line: Stitt put it in plain terms on Wednesday during the Big Sky Conference coaches' call — Washington's Vita Vea and Greg Gaines are "literally the best DTs in college football."
They're going to be going after Griz quarterback Reese Phillips all day long. That's what they do best.
Vea has 9½ tackles for loss through 28 games played, with six of those being sacks. Gaines has 3½ sacks over his 28-game career with nine tackles for loss.
The third Husky defensive lineman — Jaylen Johnson — shouldn't be overlooked, either. He had Washington's lone sack in its season opener at Rutgers, bringing down Kyle Bolin for a loss of 12 yards.
The Griz offensive linemen are big enough to put up a fight with the Huskies. They just need to, in the words of Stitt, "eat their Wheaties" ahead of game time.
In the weekly conference call, when asked if his offensive line was prepared for the challenge of Washington's defensive line, he said, "They better be. This is college football."
Phillips' confidence: With two of the best defensive linemen in the country pressuring him all game, be sure to watch out for Phillips' confidence and demeanor during the game. Staying cool, calm and collected under intense pressure is Montana's key to staying in the game. This is also an early season test to see how he could fare against the tough Big Sky defenses the Griz will see later this year.
He went unsacked against Valparaiso last week, though he did take some big hits. It's reasonable to estimate he's going to take some big shots this week, too. Let's just hope for Phillips' sake that they're not too big. Phillips needs to stay healthy.
On that note ...
Staying healthy: Earlier this week, Stitt said that the game against Washington can only aid the Griz moving forward.
"You can't miss an opportunity for your football team to get better schematically and mentally," he said on Monday. "To go against the best, that can't do anything but help us."
But bad things can come out of games like this, like injuries. Sure, having a player ball out against an FBS team sounds all good and well, but it's not worth the risk of injury. The conference slate for Montana begins just two short weeks from now when it hosts Eastern Washington.
The Griz need to be at full force against Aaron Best's crew and all their other conference opponents if they want to contend for the Big Sky title and a playoff berth this season.
Punting game: Against a defense as tough as this, junior punter Eric Williams might see the field quite a bit on Saturday.
That's not all bad, though. Williams averaged more than 53 yards per punt against Valparaiso last week — a mark that has him solidly in the lead among FCS schools and in second place among all punters regardless of NCAA school classification.
If he keeps that up against Washington, Montana has a chance to keep it close, or at least force the Huskies to put together long drives.
UW QB Jake Browning: Admire from afar, Griz fans. You're watching a future NFL quarterback. He torches ranked Pac-12 teams with ease. His deep passes are pristine.
"He can make all the throws," Stitt said. "He can throw the ball downfield. He's got touch on the deep ball. They'll get him protected and be able to throw some long comebacks. Not a lot of guys can do that. He's got a quick release and he's tough.
"Teams take on the personality of their quarterback and they got a good one. He makes their team better, not just their offense, their whole team will be better because he's on the field. The defense wants to get him the ball back so he can do his thing. He's a special one and it's gonna be a definite challenge for our defense."