Browning needs just three touchdowns to tie the Pac-12 single-season record of 43.
This ought to be fun.
If Washington quarterback Jake Browning is to get invited to New York next week for the Heisman Trophy ceremony, he will have to put a good show Friday night in the Pac-12 championship game. Colorado’s elite defensive secondary won’t make it easy on him.
This is how it should be: The Pac-12’s offensive player of the year vs. the Pac-12’s top-ranked passing defense, championship belt on the line.
Browning has shattered several school records already this season, and with 40 touchdown passes he needs just three more to match the Pac-12 record.
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Colorado, meanwhile, has allowed just 13 touchdown passes this season, with 15 interceptions and an opposing QB rating of 97.65. (UW’s secondary has nearly identical numbers: 13 touchdowns allowed, 16 interceptions, 201.9 yars pergame, 111.32 opposing QB rating.)
The Buffaloes start three seniors and a junior in their secondary, and the two senior cornerbacks — Chidobe Awuzie (6-0, 205) and Ahkello Witherspoon (6-3, 195) — both look like sure NFL prospects. Senior safety Tedric Thompson (6-0, 205) leads the Pac-12 with seven interceptions.
Pro Football Focus ranks Colorado’s defense the best in the FBS against the pass. UW counters with one of the best receivers in the land in John Ross III, who needs just two touchdown catches to tie Mario Bailey‘s conference record of 18 TD catches.
The Huskies (11-1) will want to be balanced on offense. They will need a productive game from Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman, and they will need more from Dante Pettis and Chico McClatcher, too.
Pettis was held to two catches for 22 yards in the Huskies’ lone loss to USC. The Trojans pressured Browning better than anyone, and no doubt Colorado will try to borrow that script — make the Huskies one-dimensional and get after the quarterback.
That’s a pretty good recipe for any defense, and one that’s worked well for Washington this season too.
Both teams are on this stage for the first time. No real edge for either side in that regard. With two elite defenses, it figures to be a slug-it-out showdown. Sefo Liufau is a great story for Colorado, and his power running ability will cause some problems for the Huskies.
In the end, though, the best quarterback and the best receiver should give the Huskies the advantage.
Prediction: Huskies 27, Colorado 17.