Back in 2009, when Washington faced off against LSU, it signaled the start of a new era in Husky football. Fresh off a 0-12 season, the Huskies had an energetic new coach, Steve Sarkisian, who had previously been the offensive coordinator at USC.
Playing in that game was true freshman Desmond Trufant, a member of Sarkisian's first recruiting class, who, symptomatic of the team's lack of depth, was being thrown to the fire having yet to attend a real college class.
Trufant and the Huskies hung tough with LSU that night in Husky Stadium, giving the Tigers a scare before falling 31-23.
Now, ranked No. 3 in the country and a national title favorite, LSU is obviously improved over the 2009 version. The question is, have the Huskies improved as well?
"I think that game, it was a totally different mindset here," Trufant said. "Everything was fresh, it was coach Sarkisian's first year, so but now, we have the mindset to be a contender. We want to play the best teams. To have the opportunity to play at LSU, that's just a great opportunity to prove to people that we deserve to be here."
It would be expected that the Huskies, who failed to make a bowl game that season, should have had more room to improve than LSU, who finished No. 17 in the country. But the expectation is that this game could easily turn into a blowout.
Sure, the UW has traded the friendly shores of Montlake for a hostile venue that goes by the designation "Death Valley", but still, if the program has improved the Huskies should at least be able to make a game of it.
"My freshman year, we almost pulled it out," UW quarterback Keith Price said. "But I think we're a lot better team than we were three years ago. I'm sure that they're not overlooking us, I'm sure they know that we're going to bring it to ‘em, and they're going to bring it to us. It's going to be a hard-fought game."
The talent has improved at the UW, there's no doubt about that. Sarkisian joked that before the first game against LSU, he felt the team was at a mismatch just by looking at the two teams warm up.
But if the program is truly on the path to someday compete for Rose Bowls and championships than it needs to improve relative to the powers in college football. The Huskies cannot afford to get blown out in this game.
To do so would mean that whatever the coaches are trying, it isn't working. At least, it isn't working well enough. Because all that's changed over the past three years is the players, and Sarkisian's amount of head coaching experience.
"Our schemes haven't changed much, their schemes haven't changed much," Sarkisian said. "The venue will be different, but outside of that, there will be a lot of purple and gold in the stands and on the field."