Even with some important pieces gone, big things are expected from Washington this season, coming off a solid, but somewhat underwhelming 2017 campaign. The Huskies never truly looked dominant last year even with 10 wins as the loss at Arizona State shined through the second half of the season. With possibly Chris Petersen’s best defense since he came to Washington to go with the return of Jake Browning at quarterback, this team is expected to run through the Pac-12. The spring odds had the Huskies at +2100 to win the National Championship (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) to go with an over/under of 10.5 wins.
Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin are the answer to everything for Washington’s offense, both listed with Heisman odds, +6600 and +11000, respectively. The goal for Browning is to improve his touchdown total after only 18 last year. He still has an extremely accurate arm, completing 68.8% of his passes on 8.3 yards per attempt, while Gaskin has run for 1,200-plus yards in all three seasons to go with 22 total touchdowns a year ago. Expect Salvon Ahmed to relieve Gaskin a good portion in order to keep the running back at full strength by season’s end. The line should be set with three full-time starters returning joined by a couple others that picked up experience last season. That should be enough to reach at least five yards per carry again. The biggest question comes at receiver where Dante Pettis and Will Dissly are gone. There are plenty of options from Chico McClatcher (returning from ankle injury) and Quinten Pounds to Aaron Fuller and Andre Baccellia. Throw in tight end Hunter Bryant and Browning still has enough options to throw to.
The defense may have lost Vita Vea, but it could be just as good as the 2017 group that allowed only 92.3 rushing yards and 14.5 points per Game. The depth is incredible in the front seven with Greg Gaines, Jaylen Johnson and Shane Bowman on the line combined with Tevis Bartlett and Ben Burr-Kirven at linebacker. The secondary was extremely fresh last season, which means improvement is expected led by safeties Taylor Rapp and JoJo McIntosh. Cornerbacks Byron Murphy and Myles Bryant are also two of the best in the Pac-12. Defensive coordinator Jimmy LAke and offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan will take on bigger roles this year, but there isn’t expected to be much change with either group.
Washington would be projected for an undefeated season if it didn’t have to play Auburn in Atlanta in its opening Game. As a small underdog, the Huskies would turn a lot of heads if they could steal that Game. That said, the Pac-12 Schedule sets up nice enough that this team should reach 10 regular season wins before the Conference title Game. Their toughest road Games will be the early trip to Utah and then back-to-back Games against UCLA and Oregon in September. Getting Stanford at home also helps a decent amount. It’d be a supreme disappointment if the Huskies missed out on the Pac-12 title Game again. They have the most complete team in the Conference with studs at QB and RB, but also a defense that should control the line against almost every Conference opponent. Even if they lose to Auburn in the opener, this team could easily win out, assuming it doesn’t have a random slip up like last year.
2018 Washington Huskies Football Schedule
Sept. 1 vs. Auburn (Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta)
Sept. 8 vs. North Dakota
Sept. 15 at Utah
Sept. 22 vs. Arizona State
Sept. 29 vs. BYU
Oct. 6 at UCLA
Oct. 13 at Oregon
Oct. 20 vs. Colorado
Oct. 27 at California
Nov. 3 vs. Stanford
Nov. 17 vs. Oregon State
Nov. 23 at Washington State