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Washington

vs.

Rutgers

College Football Pick

9/1/17

Coming off a season in which Washington had little competition in non-conference games, it wanted to challenge itself with an opening road trip to the east coast. Of course, that trip is out to Piscataway, N.J. to take on a Rutgers team that was blown out too many times to count last season. And so, the Huskies were -30.5 point road favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

Even with only 13 returning starters, Washington is expected to fight with USC for the top of the Pac-12 and the CFP again. That’s because a couple studs return on the offensive side with quarterback Jake Browning (3,430 yards, 43 TDs, 9 INTs) leading the charge. Matching those numbers will be tough without John Ross, but Dante Pettis (822 yards, 15 TDs) is still around to take a chunk of targets. The ground game should also be just as good with Myles Gaskin (1,373 yards, 10 TDs) and Lavon Coleman (852 yards, 7 TDs) behind a stout line that has three returning starters.

More is expected of Rutgers this season, especially on the defensive side after getting gashed for 40-plus points against any relevant competition. With eight returning starters, the defense will be better, but that doesn’t mean improvement will be seen in this opening game. UW has one of the best and most balanced offenses in the country, so expecting to hold them below 30 or even 40 points would be a stretch.

To cover for the Scarlet Knights, it will depend on new quarterback Kyle Bolin, who comes over from Louisville. While he’s not exactly a game changer, he’s better than what Rutgers put on the field last season en route to 15.7 points per game. If Bolin can move the ball with new coordinator Jerry Kill calling plays, this team won’t be as easy of an out. Still, talent is a concern for the Knights and that’s the case any time a team is coming off a season in which it was shutout four times. Running back Robert Martin and receiver Janarion Grant can be playmakers, but that’s nothing to bet on.

The Huskies will have some questions to answer on the defensive side with five starters returning, but that’s not something to bet against in the opener, especially after how dominant the unit was a year ago. Washington still has studs at every level with Vita Vea, Azeem Victor and Taylor Rapp, so a huge drop off isn't likely.

In this game last year (in Washington), the Huskies won 48-13 with Rutgers scoring the final 10 points of the game. It was the UW defense that won the game as Washington only managed 3.0 yards per carry. Browning got three long touchdowns in the first quarter and then a kickoff and punt return extended the lead later in the game.

There were plenty parts of that game that showed Rutgers could at least stay competitive. If the Scarlet Knights bring a fresh outlook to 2017 into this one, it wouldn't be surprising if they covered. Of course, not many will want to back Rutgers, though, especially against Browning and Gaskin.

Our Pick - Hard to back Rutgers when you consider the season each of these teams had a year ago. But plug your nose, as that is exactly what we are going to do here. In off such a dreadful season, Rutgers will want to give their fans at least a glimmer of hope. Expect a big, spirited effort from the Scarlet Knights. While an upset is unlikely, a cover looks like a possibility. Rutgers +31

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