Expectations are high for the Washington Huskies heading into 2018. A near-unanimous pick to win the Pac-12, per the preseason media poll, Washington finds itself in the national spotlight from the outset with a high-profile game against Auburn.
The defending SEC West champion Tigers set an appropriate tone for what is a difficult first half of the Dawgs' docket. In addition to that Week 1 ostensible road game, Washington travels to Utah and Oregon through the first seven weeks. Get through that portion unscathed, and the Huskies are looking at a home matchup with Stanford that could very well dictate their divisional and College Football Playoff aspirations.
One year after a couple heartbreaking losses denied the Huskies repeat Pac-12 championships and another shot at the national championship, Chris Petersen's bunch will be playing with aggression and much to prove this fall. Athlon asked a few editors and college football contributors to share their realistic win/loss projection for Washington in 2018.
Washington Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Washington is the clear favorite to win the Pac-12 and one of the top contenders to reach the CFB Playoff. Coach Chris Petersen’s team doesn’t have a ton of glaring concerns and brings back 16 starters, including senior quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin. The defense will miss standout lineman Vita Vea, but this unit is still loaded and will rank among the best in college football. While this team is loaded, developing playmakers on the outside to help Browning stretch the field is a must after the passing game clearly missed John Ross last fall. After connecting on 14 passes of 40 yards or more in 2016, the Huskies slipped to nine in ’17. The schedule isn’t too daunting, but road trips to Utah and Oregon are challenging. If Washington loses to Auburn in the opener, there’s not much margin for error the rest of the way to reach the CFB Playoff. The guess here is the Huskies fall to the Tigers in Atlanta and stumble once in Pac-12 play to finish just outside of the top four.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Washington is the best team in the Pac-12, on paper, and it's easy to go through the Huskies' slate and put a W next to every league game. But it's so hard to navigate a conference schedule without a loss, especially when you play nine league games. The potential pitfalls are obvious — at Utah, at Oregon and vs. Stanford. I'll go with a loss at Oregon and call it an 8–1 record in league play and 10–2 overall (with the other defeat vs. Auburn in Week 1).
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
Ever since Chris Petersen took over in Seattle, this was kind of the year we were all eyeing as him making a big run at the College Football Playoff and national title -- and he'll be doing just that. The Huskies check off every box you want to see ticked: Manageable schedule? Yep. Veteran QB and RB with a deep offensive line? Yes. Nasty defense with playmakers in the secondary? Definitely. The Pac-12 is down to the point where running the table isn't out of the question so if the Huskies can beat Auburn in the opener, then UW fans can start eyeing trips to Dallas or Miami come late December.
Kyle Kensing (@kensing45)
The cornerstones for Boise State football to become a perennial power among non-BCS/Group of 5 programs were set before Chris Petersen took over as head coach last decade. On those cornerstones, however, Petersen transformed potential into reality. Washington presented a different challenge: Though the Huskies cultivated a reputation as a national powerhouse under Don James, and despite Steve Sarkisian stocking talent to rebuilding the program from a veritable dark age, Petersen needed to begin from the foundation early in his tenure. Spurning immediate success for long-term results is beginning to bear fruit, with Washington sporting double-digit wins each of the past two seasons, and expected to do so again in 2018.
Much as Boise State became a fixture in the Top 25 under Petersen, Washington's poised to be a contender for the Pac-12 every year. This year should be the program's best shot at a national championship since at least 2000, and perhaps since the James era. The stout defense is loaded with playmakers like Taylor Rapp and Ryan Bowman, the offense features the best line in the Pac-12 and four-year starters at both quarterback (Jake Browning) and running back (Myles Gaskin), and -- oh yeah -- Petersen and Co. oversee it all.
Washington will again reach double-digit wins and reclaim the Pac-12 championship. Expecting any team to go undefeated is unreasonable, but if Washington gets out of Atlanta Week 1 with a victory, then beats a Utah team that always gives the Huskies trouble two weeks later, the countdown to 12-0 may be on.