Just prior to kickoff of the college football season, I wrote a Pac-12 preview stating who I believed could be National Title contenders. I left Washington off that list even though they were ranked #14 to start the season. This was not a simple I forgot to put them on, I left them off the list within reason.
While not losing many players is usually a good thing, to me Washington appeared to be the same team as last year. Washington brought back starters Jake Browning at Quarterback and Myles Gaskin at running back, who were not exceptional last season. That’s a team that ended up with an average record of 7-6 and found itself second to last in the Pac-12 North. It seemed like they could be the LSU of the Pac-12. A team that while ranked highly, had the exact same tools as last year and would most likely perform that way. At LSU that led to Les Miles’ departure. U Dub has been the exact opposite and have performed far better than I would have even thought possible. They have proven me wrong as they are now the fifth best team in the nation and are sitting pretty atop the Pac-12 North capped off with a shellacking of seventh ranked Stanford last Friday night.
Browning last season played good football for the most part. He was a true freshman at a school that was not going to compete for the Pac-12 North with Oregon and Stanford. He completed a respectable 63 percent of his passes in his first year in the Pacific Northwest. In 2016, Browning came back much improved. He has completed 71 percent of his passes and has 17 touchdowns to a minuscule two interceptions. The Huskies combo of Browning and Sophomore Myles Gaskin have helped fuel this prolific U Dub offense. Through five weeks Washington leads the Pac in scoring offense, averaging 45 points per contest.
The biggest difference maker for the Huskies this season has been their defense. Washington last season had 34.0 sacks all season and they currently lead the Pac with 21 with a lot of football left to play. They also lead the conference in scoring defense only allowing 12 points per game. If that isn’t enough to have you sold on the Huskies, lets compare them to other national teams since some believe the Pac-12 is a weaker conference. U Dub is eighth in the nation in points against per game and 18th in pass yards allowed per game. Their upcoming schedule consists of Oregon, Oregon State, and Utah which all rank in the bottom half on scoring offenses in the conference rankings.
Washington only has one team left on their schedule that is currently ranked which could fair well for them in their hunt to be in playoff contention. If Browning continues to flourish, then the Huskies have a great shot at competing when the polls change in November which is right after they play #24 Utah.