The time is now for Chris Petersen. He is in his third year at the helm of the Washington Huskies. He has been incredibly patient, reloading the largely empty cabinets and playing freshman early and often even when it didn't give him his best short-term chance at success.
Now things are set up for him to take a huge step forward. He returns a pile of starters and has loads of talent in key positions. He also has a bit of an opportunity - Stanford looks good but not quite as good as they have been, and Oregon has all sorts of issues, so the time to win the division for the Huskies could be right now. There is a huge window for Petersen to climb through. But can he get it done? Can he prove that he was the slam dunk coaching hire that he looked to be when they grabbed him from Boise State?
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A lot of the future of this team rests on the shoulders of Jake Browning. He won the QB job as a true freshman and went on to start 12 of 13 games. He was not consistently good, but he showed progression, and when he was at his best he was a pleasure to watch. He was also working with a true freshman running back and protected by a true freshman left tackle. Now all three players have more experience and deeper chemistry. If Browning can take the step forward that he certainly seems capable of taking then the sky could be the limit for this team - or at least the division title. If Browning can't leap forward, though, then the team will find itself frustrated.
That true freshman running back is worth plenty of attention, too. Myles Gaskin started only six games, but he amassed more than 1,300 yards and 14 TDs. A year older and wiser could make him a true nightmare for opposing defenses. With Browning and Gaskin settling into their roles, this team averaged 47 points per game in their last three, so if that momentum carries forward they will be in great shape.
Key Additions and Departures
There is not a whole lot to report here. The team returns 17 starters from last season. They lost two players to the draft, but they went only in the sixth and seventh rounds, so the losses can be absorbed. On offense there really isn't an area of concern.
Defense isn't really concerning, either. They had to replace a starter on the defensive line. However, the new starter, Greg Gaines, played significant minutes last year as a freshman, so he will be more than ready. The secondary is both intact and excellent. The biggest cause for concern in the linebacking corps. They lost both of their outside starters and will have to hope that they can again recapture their freshman magic and have a youngster step up and shine earlier than he would ideally have to.
Washington Huskies Schedule Analysis
I hate when teams schedule ridiculous nonconference schedules - Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State is just ridiculous. Conference play opens with a bang with a trip to Arizona, followed by a home game against Stanford that couldn't be more important, then a trip to Oregon. If they can come through those three weeks unbeaten then they will win their division. That's not to suggest that it is easy after that - they have to travel to Utah and Cal in consecutive weeks, and then they host USC.
2016-17 Washington Betting Odds and Trends
Bovada has Washington at +5000 to win the national title, which is 18th in the country and behind rivals Stanford (+2000), USC (+3300) and Oregon (+4000). In relative terms that makes them attractive, but I give them exactly zero chance of actually winning the title, so I would never bet them. They are the third choice to win the Pac-12 at +400 and second in the Pac-12 North at +175, behind Stanford at +160.
Here's hoping they can be at least as good to bet on this year as they were last season - they were a solid 8-5 ATS and went "under" the total in eight of 13 games.
2016-17 Washington Predictions and College Football Picks
I really like this team. I expect them t be 5-1 after six games and 5-1 in their last six. That makes them win 10 games, in my mind, and puts them right in the mix for the division. The games they lose will be what matters, but I wouldn't at all be surprised to see them win the division. They aren't nationally relevant yet, but this season will be strong proof that Petersen is the right man for the job and that he is doing the right things to bring important football back to the Pacific Northwest.
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