Jimmy Lake’s first season as Washington head coach ended up being one of the strangest debut campaigns in college football history. COVID-19’s effect on the season impacted programs differently, but perhaps none more so than Washington.
The Huskies finished with the best win percentage in the Pac-12 North, but could not pay in the league championship due to protocols. Rival Oregon went onto its second straight conference title as a result, adding some surefire fuel to the Huskies’ pursuits in 2021.
As has been customary since Chris Petersen became head coach in 2014, and for which Lake was largely responsible as an assistant, defense defines the Dawgs. Washington is loaded with playmakers like Trent McDuffie and Ryan Bowman. The loss of Zion Tupuola-Fetui to injury stings, but depth will ensure the Huskies remain in the hunt for the Pac-12 title.
Back-to-back matchups with Stanford and Oregon in the latter half of the schedule will determine Washington’s prospects for its third conference championship in six years.
Washington Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2021
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
It’s hard to get a good read on Washington after last year’s four-game slate under new coach Jimmy Lake. However, it won’t take long for the college football world to gain insight into Lake’s team in 2021, as an early trek to Michigan is a huge barometer test. While the trip to Ann Arbor is tough, the rest of the slate is very manageable. The Huskies won’t play USC or Utah in crossover action and gets Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA at home. Lake and new coordinator Bob Gregory have a few holes to plug on a standout defense but pushing for 10 (or more) wins is going to hinge on the development of the offense – especially the passing game behind quarterback Dylan Morris. Nine wins might be low with the schedule in mind, but the guess here is the depth of the Pac-12 shows up with Washington slipping once or twice in upset fashion.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
Jimmy Lake is a defensive guy and this should be evident watching Washington this fall. But the true ceiling for this team will depend on an offense that was a middle-of-the-pack unit in the Pac-12 last season, albeit over just four games. Even with the early trip to Ann Arbor to face Michigan, the schedule sets up nicely for the Huskies. But they will be tested in the second half of their slate, particularly in a four-game stretch featuring home dates with Oregon and Arizona State sandwiched by road games at Stanford and Colorado. Washington should hang around in the divisional race until the very end but probably doesn't have enough firepower to overtake the Ducks this season.
Kyle Kensing (@kensing45)
Few teams in any conference will defend as aggressively as Washington – that’s a given. And defense will have the Huskies right in the thick of the Pac-12 title chase, particularly in the first half of the season with a very manageable schedule. How the offense progresses in that manageable opening stretch will determine the Huskies’ outlook, however, as that side of the ball remains the most prominent question mark. Washington has one of the best tight ends in the nation with Cade Otton, and a veteran offensive line, but scoring consistently has vexed the program ever since the end of the 2016 College Football Playoff run.
Getting the offense up to speed down the stretch is critical ahead of games with Stanford and Oregon – and don’t sleep on that trip to Colorado in the penultimate week. The Buffs emerged as a surprise in 2020 and have the chops to exceed expectations again, which could mean playing spoiler in what has traditionally been a bad week for Pac-12 teams in the title hunt.