Note: Yes, I know I skipped Utah, but Washington plays tonight and apparently Utah played last night?
11-1, 7-1 in Conference
Key Wins: Stanford, Utah, Colorado
Key Losses: USC
Don’t say I didn’t tell you so, I wrote about how this UW team was going to shock the world and make the playoff last year. Depite analysts predicting that the Huskies were a year from excellence, all the pieces seemed to come together and, beside one game, they were world beaters. Offense and defense saw multiple All Pac-12 honors winners and a handful of All-Americans.
Unfortunately, the NCAA doesn’t pay well and being world beaters builds draft hype and encourages the draft eligible players to spring for the NFL. WR John Ross, CB Kevin King, S Buddha Baker, CB Sidney Jones, and DT Elijah Qualls all departed for the NFL. Fortunately for Washington, they have been recruiting wonderfully lately. Unfortunately for Washington, they lost three of their four starting defensive backs in an offense-heavy conference.
Head Coach: Chris Petersen
For as right as I was about UW in 2016, I was that wrong about Chris Petersen as a whole. I never wanted to take away from his accomplishments at Boise State, but when UW hired him after Sarkisian’s dismissal, I quipped, “This would have been a great hire five years ago.” Boise had started seeing the other side of the BCS Buster pleateau and it seemed Petersen might have lost his luster. I was proven very wrong. The man has continued Washington’s recruiting success and paired it with breaking out of their 8-4 routine. It will take hell and high water to pry Petersen from this position.
Jake Browning was undoubtedly the breakout player of 2016 for the Huskies. Browning threw 3,430 yards en route to 43 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, tying the Pac-10/12 single season record. The first 2/3 of his season was playing on easy mode. USC brought the hurt to the Huskies and Browning largely struggled down the stretch. His passes seemed to have lost velocity and he couldn’t complete deep routes. In the offseason, Browning completed shoulder surgery and has returned for the beginning of the 2017 season. Starting 2017, it will be interesting to see whether his performance slip was due to the surgery or if the loss to USC caused some sort of yips. John Ross, their tall, athletic speedster, is gone. In his wake, he has left Dante Pettis and Chico McClatcher to pick up where he left off. Speed back Myles Gaskin and power back Lavon Coleman both return, as well, to bolster the offense.
As aforementioned, UW lost four starters to the NFL draft, three of them coming in the secondary. Returning, Jojo McIntosh, Ezekiel Turner, and Taylor Rapp look to take their experience last year and develop it into impact potential. Up front, Vita Vea and Greg Gaines being their expertise to create the same havoc that UW’s defensive line brought last year. Azeem Victor returns at linebacker to pick up where he left off. Despite the talent loss, there’s no reason to think that this defense cannot pull together to put together a very respectable performance in 2017.
Projected Record: 11-1
Washington is stacked with talent, this isn’t a surprise. I see the Huskies dominating the season but I predict the Cardinal will exact revenge. This prevents Washington from going to the Pac-12 Championship but will guarantee them a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl. It also doesn’t rule them out from a playoff appearance, either.