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Washington Football: Huskies' 2019 Schedule Analysis

Washington Football: Huskies' 2019 Schedule Analysis

Washington Football: Huskies' 2019 Schedule Analysis

With a second Pac-12 championship in three seasons, and a third consecutive double-digit-win campaign, the Chris Petersen era has been the most prosperous for Washington football since the early 1990s. Team success is in part a byproduct of outstanding individual talent, and to that end, Washington parts with an abundance of playmakers this offseason.

In 2019 comes a true test of the long-term viability of the Huskies as Pac-12 contenders. Fortunately, the schedule offers some leeway as Washington rebuilds its secondary, replaces four-year starting quarterback Jake Browning and record-setting running back Myles Gaskin. The Huskies leave Seattle just once in the months of August and September. Washington also sees likely divisional favorites Oregon and Utah in a pair of high-profile rematches within the friendly confines of Husky Stadium.

Washington Huskies 2019 Schedule

Byes: Week 9, Week 12

Week 1 — Aug. 31 vs. Eastern Washington (Seattle)

Matchups with Eastern Washington in both 2011 and '14 were decided by three and seven points, two testaments to the perennial Big Sky Conference-contending Eagles' prowess. Washington football is in a much better place now than in those seasons, however, so this year's pairing with the FCS Playoff regular EWU should not be quite as daunting.

Week 2 — Sept. 7 vs. Cal (Seattle)

Pac-12 play gets going early for Washington in 2019, and the first game on the docket is a biggie. Revenge will be the theme for the Huskies' conference opener against Cal, which dealt Washington a stunning defeat in Berkeley last season. Former Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox transformed Cal football in short order, introducing a hard-nosed, defensive style not unlike that of Washington under Chris Petersen. The Golden Bears could be dark-horse contenders in the Pac-12 North this season, making this an important date for the Huskies beyond just the revenge factor.

Week 3 — Sept. 14 vs. Hawaii (Seattle)

Hawaii emerged as a surprise, eight-game winner in 2018, employing a potent passing attack. Quarterback Cole McDonald returns, presenting a new-look Washington secondary with a challenge before the thick of Pac-12 competition gets underway.

Week 4 — Sept. 21 at BYU (Provo, Utah)

Washington dismantled a visiting BYU team not far removed from a stunning upset of Wisconsin in last year's meeting. The Cougars have struggled to figure out their offensive identity during Kalani Sitake's time as head coach, which could again be the theme for BYU in 2019. Even with turnover in the secondary, Washington's defense is still fearsome — keeping Jimmy Lake this offseason certainly helps. That's a tough matchup for a team with the glaring question marks on offense BYU faces.

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Week 5 — Sept. 28 vs. USC (Seattle)

The lone blemish on Washington's regular-season slate in 2016 came at home against USC. That defeat loomed large, as it meant the difference in facing Alabama for a virtual road game in the national semifinals. This wouldn't exactly qualify as a revenge game, given the time that's passed since that November 2016 meeting, and the turnover on both rosters — perhaps most notably, USC cycling through offensive coordinators until landing Graham Harrell. This is a make-or-break season for USC, with an especially critical first month, so the stakes for the Trojans could be high when they visit Husky Stadium.

Week 6 — Oct. 5 at Stanford (Stanford, Calif.)

Labeling Stanford-Washington a rivalry wouldn't quite be accurate, but there is a budding competition between the two programs in recent years. Washington put an emphatic halt to the Cardinal's divisional dominance with a rout in 2016, but Stanford scored revenge with an upset victory in '17 that sealed the Cardinal's place in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Both programs are undergoing some critical roster change in 2019, but should have their identities sorted out at this juncture in the season. If all goes according to plan, Jacob Eason and K.J. Costello could be two of the more prolific quarterbacks in the Pac-12 by the time this high-profile matchup arrives.

Week 7 — Oct. 12 at Arizona (Tucson, Ariz.)

Washington snapped a four-game losing streak in games played at Arizona (and a decade-long skid of games played in the Grand Canyon State) when it beat the Wildcats in 2016. That contest came down to a surprising overtime, however. This year's matchup is the first between the Huskies and Wildcats since Kevin Sumlin replaced Rich Rodriguez in the desert, and the vaunted Washington defense's first introduction to quarterback Khalil Tate. How effectively Tate rebounds from a decent, but ultimately disappointing 2018 should be evident at this point in the season.

Week 8 — Oct. 19 vs. Oregon (Seattle)

The border rivalry is intense among the fan bases, but has rarely had significance in the greater tapestry of the Pac-12. That's changed with Petersen's arrival at Washington, and Mario Cristobal bringing Oregon back to life after a brief dormancy. The Ducks' overtime win in 2018 marked a scintillating chapter in the series, perhaps kicking off a lengthy tussle over dominance in the Pac-12 North. Oregon's likely to be the favorite heading into 2019, returning NFL prospect Justin Herbert at quarterback and a host of talented playmakers on both sides of the ball. However, Washington boasts its own array of talent, as well as home-field advantage in this marquee revenge game.

Week 10 — Nov. 2 vs. Utah (Seattle)

Washington and Utah engaged in a pair of rock fights in the 2018 season, both of which — including the Pac-12 Championship Game — the Huskies won. Utah figures to be a likely preseason favorite in the Pac-12 South, so if all goes according to plan, the Utes will come to Seattle on the stretch run of another push for the conference crown. Expect another physical battle between two of the best-coached defensive teams in college football.

Week 11 — Friday, Nov. 8 at Oregon State (Corvallis, Ore.)

Former Washington offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith inherited a large-scale rebuild upon his return as head coach of his alma mater, but Oregon State showed some positive progress in his first season. The Beavers return surprising breakout star Jermar Jefferson at running back, and boast a more veteran roster on both sides of the ball. The Beavers probably won't be prepared to contend with the pinnacle of the Pac-12 North like Washington next season, but playing this one on short rest and at Reser Stadium does present the possibility of a trap game for the Huskies.

Week 13 — Nov. 23 at Colorado (Boulder, Colo.)

Colorado nears the conclusion of a new era upon its visit to Husky Stadium, winding down Mel Tucker's first campaign as head coach. The Buffaloes' disastrous back-half of the 2018 season ended with Mike MacIntyre's dismissal. Despite the seven-game losing streak that resulted in Colorado going from ranked in the Top 25 to out of the postseason, the cupboard's not bare: Laviska Shenault Jr. is back to wreak more havoc, and seasoned quarterback Steven Montez returns behind center.

Week 14 — Friday, Nov. 29 vs. Washington State (Seattle)

The 2018 Apple Cup was a snow-covered de facto Pac-12 North championship, one in which Washington reigned supreme. Some verbal sparring through the media from Mike Leach and Jimmy Lake might add to the intrigue of the 2019 encounter — though another possible North title being on the line would dwarf that. The division could certainly be up for grabs again, with Cougars defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys again overseeing an underrated unit.

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.