Things can only get better for Washington in 2016, at least that’s the hope. But it only makes sense that the Huskies improve from last year’s 7-6 record, and beating Southern Miss in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. But the problem comes playing in the Pac-12 North where they have yet to figure out how to take down Oregon and Stanford. They had some big wins last year (at USC, vs. Arizona), but still finished with a losing record in Conference play. But after going young in 2015, Chris Petersen has experience across the board.
That starts with quarterback Jake Browning (63.3% completion, 16 TDs, 10 INTs) and running back Myles Gaskin (1,302 yards, 14 TDs). Those two didn’t have the best numbers around, especially Browning, but as freshmen, there’s not much to complain about. Browning looked improved in the spring, taking more shots down the field, something he lacked a season ago. His receiving corps took a bit of a hit, but some experience remains in Dante Pettis (30 receptions, 414 yards) and Brayden Lenius (307 yards, 3 TDs). The biggest news out of the spring was the return of speedy John Ross, who should fit right into the offense.
To enable Browning and Gaskin to have better seasons, Four starting linemen returning to the group with the only opening at center. This offense was better last year, but still had Games in which it struggled against better defenses.
But once again, it’s going to be the defense that leads the way for Washington. The Huskies were statistically the best in the Pac-12, holding Oregon to 26 points, USC to 12 and Arizona to 3. Much like the offense, the defense returns loads of talent and should be even better.
The returning experience can be seen on the line with Joe Mathis at end and Elijah Qualls and Greg Gaines at tackle. Linebacker is a similar situation as UW’s two leading tacklers are back in Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria. But with that said, it’s the secondary that is probably the best unit on this defense. Corner Sidney Jones and safety Budda Baker were All-Conference players a year ago, and they aren’t the only ones that return to the back end.
All of this sounds good, but not if the Huskies can’t get past their Schedule. While they should get three wins in non-Conference play, their opening Pac-12 slate features road trips to Arizona and Oregon surrounding a home meeting with Stanford. A win in just one of those Games would be enough. OUt of the South, the Huskies have to travel to Utah and host USC this year. Even with Washington expected to be better, it’s also easy to see how they could lose five Conference Games again.
Washington has the third-best odds to win the North, which isn’t surprising, but its over/under including postseason is at 10 (under 10 -195 at 5Dimes), which seems a little lofty. There’s a reason the under is -195 at 5Dimes. Expect the Huskies to be around eight or nine wins instead, simply because of a difficult Conference Schedule. Then again, they are one of the few teams with a returning starting quarterback, so, 10 wins isn’t out of the question.
2016 Washington Huskies Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. Rutgers
Sept. 10 vs. Idaho
Sept. 17 vs. Portland State
Sept. 24 at Arizona
Sept. 30 vs. Stanford
Oct. 8 at Oregon
Oct. 22 vs. Oregon State
Oct. 29 at Utah
Nov. 5 at California
Nov. 12 vs. USC
Nov. 19 vs. Arizona State
Nov. 25 at Washington State