If this looks familiar, it should.
On May 26, we counted down the most (and least) intriguing games of Washington’s 2020 football schedule — only to have its nonconference games canceled, a Pac-12 opponent added and the order and start date adjusted and rearranged.
So let’s try this again, shall we?
Friday, the Pac-12 Conference unveiled its revamped 10-game, conference-only 2020 schedules, headlined by Jimmy Lake’s head-coaching debut against Stanford inside (a probably empty) Husky Stadium on Sept. 26. So let’s rank all 10 games (again), from least to most intriguing.
10. ARIZONA | Oct. 3 | Husky Stadium
Last season, UW trailed 17-13 at halftime inside Arizona Stadium, only to come alive for 38 points and five consecutive scoring drives in the second half of a 51-27 victory. Puka Nacua broke out, Sean McGrew and Salvon Ahmed both ran wild and Ariel Ngata somehow led the team in tackles.
If the Wildcats are (finally) going to take significant strides under Kevin Sumlin, sophomore quarterback Grant Gunnell must lead the way. Gunnell completed 65.2% of his passes and threw for nine touchdowns with just one interception in eight games as a true freshman. He’ll certainly be challenged against the Huskies’ stingy secondary.
9. UCLA | Nov. 21 | Husky Stadium
Let’s call this one “The Colson Yankoff Bowl.” Last offseason, the former four-star quarterback recruit opted to transfer from UW to UCLA. Bruins head coach Chip Kelly then claimed that the Huskies had blocked Yankoff’s bid to gain immediate eligibility. He told the Los Angeles Times that “I think everybody should be available. We don’t block anybody, that’s just our school and our [team] policy. So that’s a question for Washington, not us.”
Granted, Yankoff is unlikely to start against the Huskies this November. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw for 2,701 yards with 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season, while running for four more scores. But Yankoff’s presence on the opposite sideline will be noteworthy nonetheless.
8. COLORADO | Nov. 6 | Husky Stadium
UW rode a road win over Oregon State into Boulder last November, intending to add further momentum before a season-ending Apple Cup clash with Washington State inside Husky Stadium.
Instead, the Huskies were thoroughly, inexplicably outplayed.
In a 20-14 Colorado win, the 4-6 Buffs ran for 207 yards and 5 yards per carry. They held the Huskies to a grand total of 32 rushing yards and ONE yard per rush. They doled out a physical thrashing. After it was over, a visibly weathered Chris Petersen called it “as frustrating a game as we’ve had since I’ve been here, for sure.”
With a new head coach and offensive coordinator, Washington should be plenty motivated to dole out punishment of its own.
7. OREGON STATE | Oct. 24 | Husky Stadium
Who doesn’t love a matchup of former UW assistants who earned their shot as a head coach?
For four years, Jonathan Smith’s offense dueled Jimmy Lake’s secondary during practices in Seattle. And last season, Lake’s defense dominated Smith’s Beavers — to the tune of 119 total yards and zero offensive points — in a 19-7 win at Oregon State. UW defensive back Elijah Molden even credited his time around Smith with aiding a fourth-down interception, saying that “obviously he was with us my freshman year, and in practice he would always get me with that same route.”
UW has won eight consecutive games over Oregon State. But for two former Husky assistants, this is a Pac-12 matchup with a personal twist.
6. at USC | Dec. 5 | Los Angeles
Last season, Lake seemed to solve USC’s twist on the air raid offense — allowing just 163 passing yards against the tremendous receiver trio of Michael Pittman Jr., Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns in a 28-14 Husky win. He bracketed the Trojans’ top receivers with extra defensive backs, essentially daring his opponent to win the game on the ground. But could that gimmick work twice? And how much did the absence of stud freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis affect the final result?
We’ll get some answers this December. And, if both teams live up to expectations, both could close the regular season with an awful lot on the line.
5. at Utah | Nov. 14 | Salt Lake City, Utah
UW is 12-2 all-time against Utah, but don’t let that stat fool you. Four of their last five games have been settled by seven points or less, and the Utes topped the Huskies 33-28 in Seattle last season. Still, the Huskies aren’t the only ones with a whole lot to prove. Seven Utes were selected in the 2020 NFL draft; Kyle Whittingham must replace much of its defense as well as quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss. South Carolina graduate transfer Jake Bentley is the odds-on favorite to start under center this fall.
These are not the same UW and Utah teams who met inside Husky Stadium last November. But the Huskies — including Utah product Puka Nacua, whose brother Samson plays for the Utes — won’t forget the final score.
4. at Cal | Oct. 10 | Berkeley, Calif.
Remember Washington’s last two games against Cal? Oh, you’ve paid for endless hours of therapy in an ultimately fruitless attempt to forget them? Got it. That makes sense.
For two consecutive seasons, the Huskies have been upset by the Golden Bears in increasingly excruciating fashion. In 2018, Jake Haener threw a disastrous pick-six in the second half of a 12-10 defeat. And last September, Washington native and Cal linebacker Evan Weaver guaranteed victory, and then the Huskies failed on a final drive of a 20-19 loss that followed a lengthy lightning delay.
Former UW defensive coordinator and Cal head coach Justin Wilcox seems to have the Huskies’ number. But another former UW defensive coordinator — Jimmy Lake — may have something to say about that.
3. STANFORD | Sept. 26 | Husky Stadium
This is the debut: Husky fans’ first chance to see Lake as head coach, John Donovan as offensive coordinator and [FILL IN NAME HERE, BECAUSE YOUR GUESS IS AS GOOD AS MINE] as UW starting quarterback. It’s also an opportunity for the Huskies to put an ugly 23-13 loss in Palo Alto, Calif., last October behind them.
But, on a wider scale, it’s the beginning of what could be the weirdest season in college football history. Will this game even be played? What about the nine that follow? Will there be fans in attendance? Will this look and sound like Pac-12 football?
One way or another, we’ll find out together.
2. at Washington State | Nov. 27 | Pullman
Typically, the Apple Cup requires no explanation. But this will be a particularly important one for two debuting head coaches — UW’s Jimmy Lake and WSU’s Nick Rolovich. Of course, both are already familiar with each other’s work. Last September, Lake’s Huskies snatched three interceptions in a convincing 52-20 win over Rolovich’s Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. And after being hired by Washington State last winter, Rolovich immediately installed an Apple Cup countdown clock in the Cougars’ locker room.
Lake infamously owned former WSU head coach Mike Leach. But will he experience equal success against Rolovich and his run-and-shoot attack? Only one way to find out.
1. at Oregon | Oct. 31 | Eugene, Ore.
It’s Washington-Oregon on Halloween. Enough said.
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