Head Coach: Chris Petersen
2016 record: 12-2 overall, 8-1 Pac 12 North
2016 Postseason results: Lost to Alabama 24-7 in College Football Playoff Semifinals (Peach Bowl)
2017 returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense
Odds to win 2018 College Football Championship game: 47/2
Odds to win 2017 Pac 12 Championship Game: +305
Odds to Win 2017 Pac 12 North Division: +112
Regular season wins: over 10 -155 / under 10 +135
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Last year, the Washington Huskies had a dream season under coach Chris Petersen. The Huskies went 11-1 in the regular season with the only loss coming to USC. The Huskies won the Pac 12 North Division and then beat Colorado in the Pac 12 Championship game. Washington was selected for the College Football Playoff but lost to Alabama 24-7 in the Peach Bowl in the semifinals. The Huskies suffered a ton of losses but are still talented enough to compete for the Pac 12 title again. Four Washington starters were taken in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.
Let’s take a look at the Huskies on offense, defense, special teams as well as the schedule and outlook.
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Jonathan Smith and Matt Lubick are the co-offensive coordinators. The Huskies averaged 457 yards and 42 points a game last year. They were in the top 45 nationally in all offensive categories including #8 in scoring. The Huskies get seven starters back in 2017.
Junior quarterback Jake Browning is a Heisman contender and will be in the NFL soon. He completed 62.1% of his passes for 3,430 yards with 43 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He also had 4 rushing touchdowns. K.J. Carta-Samuels will again be the back-up. He played sparingly last year mostly in mop up duty. He threw 3 touchdowns last year.
The Huskies have a dynamic one-two punch at running back with Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman. Gaskin, a junior, rushed for 1,373 yards on 237 carries with 10 touchdowns, and also had 19 catches for 137 yards and a touchdown. He was first team All-Pac 12 last year Coleman rushed for 852 yards on 114 carries with 7 touchdowns, plus he made 5 catches. Though listed as a defensive back Jomon Dotson will get some carries as well. He had 260 yards with a touchdown, and also caught a touchdown pass last year.
The Huskies must replace receiver John Ross, a top ten pick by the Cincinnati Bengals. He had 81 catches for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns, plus 102 rushing yards and a touchdown. Look for receiver Dante Pettis to be the go-to receiver without Ross. Pettis, a senior, had 53 catches for 822 yards and 15 touchdowns last year. Slot receiver Chico McClatcher is also back. He had 31 catches for 574 yards and 5 touchdowns, plus 18 carries for 131 rushing yards and a touchdown. Aaron Fuller had 16 catches for 184 yards and 2 touchdowns. True freshman Ty Jones has a ton of talent and could start alongside Pettis and McClatcher. Tight end Darrell Daniels is now with the Indianapolis Colts. He had 17 catches for 307 yards and 3 touchdowns. Look for Drew Sample to take over as the tight end after making 9 catches for 106 yards last year.
Washington gets three starters back on the line. Both tackles Trey Adams and Kaleb McGary are back. Adams was an all-Pac 12 first teamer last year at left tackle and will be a first round NFL pick eventually. Center Coleman Shelton is a four year starter and has played all five positions on the line at one point. Nick Harris and Andrew Kirkland take over as the starting guards.
Washington allowed 317 yards per game and 18 points per game. They were #12 or better in both categories nationally. The defense must replace three members of the secondary who were first or second round draft picks in the NFL. Seven starters are back for co-coordinators Pete Kwiatkowski and Jimmy Lake.
Nose tackle Vita Vea could have left early for the NFL but decided to come back to the Huskies. He had 39 tackles and 5 sacks last year. Tackle Greg Gaines is a top notch run stopper. He had 35 tackles and 3.5 sacks last year. The line must replace Elijah Qualls now with the Philadelphia Eagles. He had 38 tackles and 3 sacks. Jaylen Johnson will start at defensive end.
The linebackers will be the strength of the unit led by Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierra manning the inside spots. Victor had 67 tackles despite missing four games with a broken leg. Bierra had 70 tackles. Connor O’Brien had 35 tackles including 6.5 for loss and 3 sacks on the outside. The only new starter is redshirt freshman Amandre Williams.
The secondary will undergo a major overhaul. The secondary loses safety Budda Baker and corners Sidney Jones and Kevin King. The trio combined for around 160 tackles and 9 interceptions. You can’t lose that much talent and not expect a dropoff. Sophomore Taylor Rapp returns at free safety after making 53 tackles and four interceptions last year. JoJo McIntosh takes over at strong safety. Jordan Miller and Byron Murphy are the new corners. None of the latter three are tested, so the secondary is a huge question mark aside from Rapp.
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Punter Tristan Vizcaino will also handle the kicker duties for the first time in his career. He averaged over 40 yards a punt and planted 15 inside the 20, but has only attempted one extra point in his career as a kicker. He was the kickoff specialist last year. Dante Pettis is one of the best punt returners in the country and had two for touchdowns last year. Austin Joyner takes over as the primary kick returner for Ross.
Schedule and Outlook
The Huskies open with a trip to Rutgers, before home games against Montana and Fresno State. Washington opens conference play with a rematch of the Pac 12 Championship game at Colorado. The Huskies travel to Oregon State, host California and travel to Arizona State in the next three games. Home games against UCLA and Oregon are next, before a showdown at Stanford that will likely decide the Pac 12 North title. Washington closes the season with home games against Utah and Apple Cup rival Washington State.
The schedule is definitely backloaded. Still, Washington should return to the Pac 12 Championship game where a likely play-in game for the playoff against USC awaits.
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