Preseason polls can be interpreted in many different ways For fans, coaches, and players a preseason ranking can mean different things, affirmation, acknowledgments and indeed some projection into the upcoming football season.
For the Washington Huskies, a No. 10 preseason ranking in the Associated Press poll is a bit of all three. After a surprising 11-2 season that was capped off by an impressive 27-20 win over the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl, many pundits believe the Huskies have the talent to continue their ascend toward college football’s elite. That is exciting news for the fans and a welcome challenge for the Huskies.
The return of quarterback Michael Penix Jr is one reason the Huskies like their chances of breaking into college football elite teams in 2023. Last season Penix Jr led the FBS in passing yards per game. Another reason for the Husky’s hope is the return of the dynamic wide receiver duo of Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan. The two receivers surpassed 1,000 yards in receiving which was the first time in Husky history two players accomplished that feat in the same year.
NEED DEFENSE TO STEP UP
The uncomfortable challenge for the Huskies will be on the defensive side of the ball. The Huskies’ defense allowed 25.8 points a game which ranked them 58th overall according to Sports reference. Part of the low ranking for the Huskies’ defense was a lack of turnovers. The Huskies forced 0.9 turnovers per game. Eight starters return which should build cohesion.
Also, back to bolster the UW defense Bralen Trice is a 2022 All-Pac 12- First team ad 2023 Preseason All-American First team selection. Two players picked to support the Huskies’ defense resurgence this year are db Jabbar Muhammad and DL Zion Tupuola -Feti. The pair landed on the Pac-12’s all-defensive second team .
A QUICK START NEEDED
For the Huskies to compete for the Pac-12 title and beyond they will need a fast start to the season. Washington will open the season with back to back home against Boise State and Tulsa. The team should be 2-0 when it plays its first road game at Michigan State on Sept 16th. That game is followed by a home game with Cal then a road game at Arizona and then the team’s first real test of the season on October 14 against the Orgon at home.
If the Huskies remain unscathed after the Ducks game their biggest challenge would be the Nov 4th showdown with USC in LA followed by a home against Utah. Loss to USC or Utah would not ruin the Huskies’ Pac-12 and playoff hopes. A loss to both would ruin any chances of playing for the Pac-12 title. While the task might seem daunting it is a challenge the Huskies must overcome if they want to be considered an elite college football team.
The Huskies are the second-highest-ranked Pac-12 school behind USC (6). UW is one of five Pac-12 schools in the top 25 along with USC, Utah (14), Oregon (15) and Oregon State (18).
The SEC leads the way with six top-25 teams, followed by the Pac-12 and Big Ten with five each. As expected, Georgia checked in at No. 1 overall, earning 60 of 63 first-place votes. The Bulldogs have won each of the last two National Championships under head coach Kirby Smart.
AP Top-25 1: Georgia (60)
2: Michigan (2)
3: Ohio State (1)
7: Penn State
8: Florida State