The Washington Huskies (12-2) are, as they were in 2016, the best team in the Pac-12 North. Along with that fact, our 2017 Washington Huskies college football preview finds that they also have a relatively friendly schedule. This is a team that has the potential to go all the way in 2017. Last season, they almost did just that. After winning the Pac-12 North and beating Colorado 41-10 to take the conference championship, the Huskies lost their CFB Playoff Semifinal game to Alabama 24-7. As they return key players on both sides of the football, this team has as good a shot as any to win a national title.
Junior QB Jake Browning (62.1 COMP%, 3,430 YDs, 43 TDs, 9 INTs) was a top performer last season. Reliable and resilient, he led the Pac-12’s number one scoring offense, which averaged 41.8 PPG. Although Browning’s favorite receiver, John Ross, is gone, he does have returning receivers WRs Dante Pettis and Chico McClatcher with which to connect. Pettis averaged 15.5 YPC and caught 15 TD passes, while McClatcher took in five scoring passes while averaging 18.5 YPC.
The offensive line is solid at center and at both tackle positions, while two new but experienced starters move into the guard spots. The ground attack is four deep with TB Myles Gaskin (237 ATT, 1,373 YDs, 10 TDs, 5.8 YPA) leading the charge. He also caught 19 passes for one TD while averaging 7.4 YPC.
The Huskies D was stingy, allowing just 17.7 PPG, which ranked them first in the Pac-12 and eighth nationally. They were accomplished at stopping both the ground and air attack. The Huskies use a 3-4 scheme upfront and will see Greg Gaines (35 TCKLs, 3.5 SCKs, 4.5 TFL) return to the line, while three LBs come back. Junior Vita Vea, a projected second-round pick for the NFL, returns for another season to start at NT. He had 39 tackles, five sacks and two QBH last year.
Senior ILB Keishawn Bierria, who had 70 tackles, two sacks, three TFL, and three PBU, and senior OLB Greg Gaines, who notched 35 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 4.5 TFL, are quality players. Also back is another senior, ILB Azeem Victor (67 TCKLs, 3 TFL, 1 PBU). Although he missed four games, Victor, who is tough and aggressive, made second-team All-Pac-12. The secondary is the biggest concern, as three prime players are gone. Starting sophomore FS Taylor Rapp (53 TCKLs, 0.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 4 INTs) and junior SS Jojo McIntosh (67 TCKLs, 2.5 TFL, 2 PBU) both return, while the corners will be new and relatively inexperienced.
Punter Tristan Vizcaino is back after averaging 40.7 YPP and dropping 15 within the 20-yard line. He will take over the placekicking duties too. Pettis will take punts again. He returned two for TDs last season and has five returns for scores overall. Ross, who was exceptional on kickoffs, has to be replaced.
2017 Washington Huskies College Football Preview: Final Word
Starting his fourth season as Washington head coach, Chris Peterson (119-26 Overall, 6-4 Bowls) has turned the Huskies from a seven to nine win team to an 11 to 12 win team. Our 2017 Washington Huskies college football preview has determined that this club will once again earn about a dozen wins.
Key games include a rematch of the 2016 title game when the Huskies travel to Colorado to play the Buffaloes on Sep 23. On Oct 14, Washington travels to Tempe to play Arizona State. The Huskies have not beaten the Sun Devils on their home turf in 15 years. On Nov 10, Washington plays at Stanford, as the Cardinal team tries to exact revenge for last year’s humiliating defeat by the Huskies. Utah visits Washington on Nov 18. Last season, the Utes almost pulled an upset against the Huskies. Can they tempt fate again? The final games of the season, which is played on Nov 25, has Washington State at Washington. This game is for the Apple Cup, and it may also be for the division title, as it was last season.
Top Three Takeaways
- QB Browning and receivers can be explosive
- New O-line tackles need to come through
- D looks good overall, but new corners may need time to adjust