The Washington Huskies come in at No. 11 in the preseason rankings. Here are five things that matter heading into U-Dub’s 2016 season.
The window is open
You’ll have to forgive Washington fans if they’re a little too hyped up for what might be coming. After all, the program has been mired in mediocrity for years, with a nine-win season in 2013 being the high-water mark since going 11-1 with a Rose Bowl win to end the 2000 season.
There isn’t a killer in the Pac-12 this year, with Oregon looking a bit vulnerable, Stanford losing most of its veterans, and USC and UCLA still just above-average. The shot is there for the Huskies to start barking – sorry – and take over the Pac-12 North. Head coach Chris Petersen has created a monster of a defense, and if the offense can be a bit more explosive, the parts are there to be the league’s new it team.
Growing pains over?
The Washington offense wasn’t ready for primetime with way too many inconsistent parts and way too many issues throughout the six losses last year. However, it might have been the proverbial step back to take a giant leap forward with the underclassmen now returning with experience. The veterans have to produce now that they know what they’re doing, but they also need to find more dangerous weapons to go along with wide receiver John Ross. Washington doesn’t have an excuse this year to not be far better at cranking up the offense.
The best defense in the Pac-12
Fine, so Utah and Stanford will be tough, and USC will have its moments, but after doing a rebuild and reload on defense last season, Petersen and defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski have something special returning. It all starts with a loaded secondary with All-America candidates in corner Sidney Jones and safety Budda Baker, while the defensive front seven will be a rock, especially up front.
Hold on to the ball
As with most young teams, mistakes turned out to be a killer. The offense rolled against Arizona State, but it only came up with 17 points thanks for four turnovers. The defense did its part throughout the year, but the Huskies were -7 in turnover margin in the six losses and +13 in the seven wins. With this year’s team, the season might be as simple as owning the turnover battle.
What’s going to happen?
This is going to be the really, really big, giant, super-important, red-hot team – in 2017. Alas, there will be enough missteps to go 8-4 in the regular season, and then come out and drill the pour souls who get them in the bowl game. Everything will click late as this turns into the Pac-12 team no one wants to face.