The Pac-12 North is viewed as a two-team race in 2013. Oregon and Stanford are the class of the North, but there are a lot of eyes on Washington this year.
The Huskies have a revamped and improved Husky Stadium after spending a year in the Seahawks’ CenturyLink Field, and Washington will open with Boise State on Aug. 31. But the Huskies didn’t draw a favorable conference slate, as they catch Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and UCLA in crossover play, with road trips to Oregon State and Stanford also on the Pac-12 schedule.
With a challenging schedule, Washington needs a big year from quarterback Keith Price. After throwing for 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2011, Price tossed 13 interceptions and regressed in yardage (2,728) last year. Price didn’t have a lot of help from his offensive line in 2012, which is still a concern heading into this year.
What will Washington's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Washington's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
8/31 Boise State
9/14 Illinois (Chicago)
9/21 Idaho State
10/5 at Stanford
10/19 at Arizona State
11/15 at UCLA
11/23 at Oregon State
11/29 Washington State
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Considering how difficult Washington’s schedule is, it’s very possible the Huskies are a better team, but the progress won’t show in the win column. Much of Washington’s success in 2013 will ride on an improved offensive line, along with the return of quarterback Keith Price to an All-Pac-12 level. Just how difficult is the schedule? Well, there could be four losses on first glance: at Stanford, Oregon, at Arizona State and at UCLA. And games at Oregon State and home against Boise State are tossups or swing games. With the status of tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and receiver Kasen Williams uncertain for the opener against the Broncos, I’m going to lean slightly with Boise State on Aug. 31. But I’m going to give Washington – especially with Seferian-Jenkins and Williams back in the lineup – a win over Oregon State on Nov. 23. After three consecutive seven-win seasons, the Huskies find a way to get to eight wins and finish third in the Pac-12 North in 2013.
I like this Washington team, as I think the offense, with quarterback Keith Price, running back Bishop Sankey and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins leading the way, has a chance to do some damage. The defense also has a lot of talent and experience returning. The problem I see for the Huskies this season, however, is their schedule. Washington opens by hosting Boise State in brand-new Husky Stadium. Unfortunately, I don't see that one going Steve Sarkisian's way, and October is shaping up to be a pretty rough month as well with Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State lined up in a row.
Getting to six wins shouldn't be a problem for this team. The thing to watch is if these Huskies are able to pull of an upset or two along the way, such as on the road against Oregon State or UCLA. The potential is there for eight or even nine wins, but to get there Washington has to show up for the big games (lost to both Arizona and Oregon on the road last season by a combined score of 104-38) and must win the Apple Cup at home against in-state rival Washington State, something the Huskies did not do last season.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
If Washington is going to get over that 7-6 hump where the Huskies have been stuck the last three seasons, they’re going to have to win on the road. That hasn’t been easy — Washington is 6-11 on the road the last three years. It’s hard to believe Washington defeated Stanford last season, but that’s not going to happen again in Palo Alto with the Cardinal’s offensive line against Washington’s weakness on the defensive front. After that, the Huskies have three winnable Pac-12 road games in Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon State. Washington's defense was one of the most improved units in the country last season (from 6.2 yards per play in Pac-12 games to 5.3). The skill positions are among the best in the league at receiver, running back and tight end. Four linemen are back. That puts the onus on Keith Price, who underachieved last season. I’ll pick Washington to beat Oregon State, which is minus lockdown corner Jordan Poyer.
Kyle Kensing, Saturday Blitz (@Kensing45)
Great recruiting classes add up to equal talent and experience on what is easily the best Washington team of the Steve Sarkisian era. He will finally get over the seven-win mark, but the question is by how much?
Justin Wilcox led a remarkable one-year turnaround of the defense that should carry over into 2013. Unfortunately for the Huskies, offensive regression coincided with the defensive improvement to keep UW from meeting its potential. Keith Price must bounce back to his 2011 level of play for UW to elevate from a good, second tier Pac-12 team to a legitimate Rose Bowl contender. We should get a sense of where the Huskies are immediately against always-outstanding Boise State, which beat UW in the final game of last season.
The Huskies' four-game stretch to open Pac-12 play is season-defining. They open at home with two teams that beat them last year, Arizona and Oregon, and must travel to face defending conference champion Stanford, then travel to face an Arizona State that is my pick to win the South. Coming out of that spell 2-2 would be a major win. Should UW go 3-1, it positions itself at a run for the conference championship game.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
If Coach Sark can combine his offense from 2011 with his defense in 2012, this team might be capable of winning the Pac-12. The defensive coaching changes made last year were wildly effective and this unit should once again be salty. Keith Price, however, needs to revert to his record-setting form from two years ago — and there is no reason to think that won't happen considering his now healthy O-line and talented supporting skill cast. Late season road games with Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon State will determine if this team is a 9-10 win team or a 6-7 win team. I will go right in the middle.
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