They say games aren’t played on paper.

But predictions are fair game.

In that spirit, let’s take a prognosticating stroll through the Huskies’ 2021 season, starting with the opener against Montana on Sept. 4.

(Note: if you’d like to print out or laminate this page to unsparingly assess our future mistakes, that is your right as a reader.)

Sept. 4 | MONTANA | Husky Stadium

Outlook: Montana appears to be a program on the rise. In an arguably irrelevant two-game schedule last spring, the Griz thumped Central Washington and Portland State by a combined score of 107-10. And in Bobby Hauck’s second full season back at Montana in 2019, he led the 10-4 Griz to the FCS quarterfinals for the first time in a decade.

But it won’t matter. Why? Because Washington is not Central Washington. And in their last two games against FBS opponents — Oregon in 2019 and UW in 2017 — the Griz lost by a combined score of 98-10.

Prediction: Huskies 41, Griz 10

Sept. 11 | at Michigan | Ann Arbor, Mich.

Outlook: Washington and Michigan have no shortage of history, having met four times in the Rose Bowl — most recently splitting back-to-back meetings in 1992 and 1993. The two teams haven’t played at all since 2002, when the Wolverines escaped “The Big House” with a narrow 31-29 win.

But this isn’t the Michigan team Husky fans might remember. In his seventh season at the helm, Jim Harbaugh is sitting on perhaps the hottest seat in America, coming off a disastrous 2-4 season. With a retooled coaching staff, Harbaugh’s team must show immediate improvement — and 17 returning starters should certainly help. But make no mistake: UW will not consider itself an underdog.


Prediction: Huskies 27, Wolverines 21

Sept. 18 | ARKANSAS STATE | Husky Stadium

Outlook: There’s reason to think Arkansas State should be better than the group that finished 4-7 in 2020. First-year head coach Butch Jones brings immediate legitimacy, and the two quarterbacks currently competing for the starting gig — established returner Layne Hatcher and Florida State transfer James Blackman — are both capable of leading an effective air attack. But on the other side, Arkansas State allowed an average of 314 passing yards per game last season — ranking 126th out of 127 teams nationally. Let Dylan Morris cook!

Prediction: Huskies 48, Red Wolves 17

Sept. 25 | CALIFORNIA | Husky Stadium

Outlook: Oh, those pesky Bears. Cal has upset Washington in each of its last two meetings, a 20-19 squeaker in 2019 and a 12-10 snoozer in 2018. Justin Wilcox’s team returns quarterback Chase Garbers, several running backs and six of its top seven pass-catchers, as well as 11 of its top 12 tacklers. There’s no secret these two teams play similar styles, but this time around, expect Washington to find a way to win.

Prediction: Huskies 20, Golden Bears 19

Oct. 2 | at Oregon State | Corvallis, Ore.

Outlook: Jermar Jefferson is gone, and the prolific running back takes much of Oregon State’s 2020 offensive production with him. The Beavs’ quarterback — whether it winds up being returning starter Tristan Gebbia or Colorado transfer Sam Noyer — needs to carry more of the load. On the other side, Oregon State finished 10th in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (33.3 points per game), rushing defense (217.6 yards per game) and total defense (442.3 yards per game) last season, while managing a single sack per game. The Huskies should be the better team.

Prediction: Huskies 30, Beavs 20

Oct. 16 | UCLA | Husky Stadium

Outlook: UCLA returns a whopping 19 starters — most notably quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, tight end Greg Dulcich and linebacker Caleb Johnson. The Bruins’ season might ultimately rest on the right arm and legs of Thompson-Robinson, who has tremendous talent but has yet to maximize his potential. Michigan transfer running back Zach Charbonnet is an intriguing option as well. UCLA also loses its best defensive player in defensive end Osa Odighizuwa. The Bruins have the potential to be fun. But will they be good?

Prediction: Huskies 38, Bruins 24

Oct. 22 | at Arizona | Tucson, Ariz.

Outlook: The Jedd Fisch Era has arrived at Arizona — which is good news, because the 2020 Wildcats were terrible. They have lost a total of 12 consecutive games across two seasons and were outscored 199-87 last fall. Fisch effectively won the offseason, hiring the Seahawks’ Brennan Carroll to be his offensive coordinator and bringing in Don Brown to coach the defense. Still, it’s going to take more than a few months of flashy press releases to return Arizona to Pac-12 respectability. 

Prediction: Huskies 41, Wildcats 17

Oct. 30 | at Stanford | Stanford, Calif.

Outlook: For the last several seasons, Washington has lost a game it should have won. In 2017, it was a 13-7 loss at Arizona State. In 2018, it was a 12-10 loss at Cal. In 2019, you could take your pick from defeats at Stanford and Colorado. We know UW doesn’t match up well with the Cardinal, and the Huskies have lost six straight on “The Farm.” On paper, the Huskies should probably beat Stanford. But that doesn’t mean they will.


Prediction: Cardinal 23, Huskies 20

Nov. 6 | OREGON | Husky Stadium

Outlook: This is the big one. Oregon’s ceiling in 2021 may depend on the capability of quarterback Anthony Brown, a Boston College transfer who has yet to prove himself as a Pac-12 starter. The Ducks return all five offensive linemen from their bowl game and productive running backs Travis Dye and C.J. Verdell as well. Kayvon Thibodeaux is one of the best defensive players in the nation, and linebacker Noah Sewell should continue to ascend in his second season in Eugene.

Still, UW is easily the more experienced team. Washington has also lost two consecutive games in the rivalry, by a grand total of seven points. This game is essentially a toss-up. But until I see the Huskies down their rival, I’m going with the Ducks.

Prediction: Ducks 35, Huskies 31

Nov. 13 | ARIZONA STATE | Husky Stadium

Outlook: Arizona State has a ton of talent — led by quarterback Jayden Daniels, running back Rachaad White, defensive end Tyler Johnson and defensive tackle Jermayne Lole. It also has a ton of unnecessary distractions, stemming from the ongoing NCAA investigation into prohibited recruiting visits during the pandemic dead period. If the program doesn’t succumb to its collective dysfunction, the Sun Devils might just challenge for a Pac-12 South title in 2021. But that’s a big “if.”

Prediction: Huskies 31, Sun Devils 28

Nov. 20 | at Colorado | Boulder, Colo.

Outlook: J.T. Shrout — a Tennessee transfer — suffered a significant knee injury in fall camp, leaving second-year freshman Brendon Lewis to handle Colorado’s quarterback duties this fall. The good news for Lewis and Co. is that CU returns four offensive linemen as well as dynamic running backs Jarek Broussard and Alex Fontenot. UW failed to stop the run in a 2019 upset loss at Colorado, and that will be the challenge again this fall. This time, however, the Huskies will be up for it.

Prediction: Huskies 24, Buffs 16

Nov. 26 | WASHINGTON STATE | Husky Stadium

Outlook: Let’s keep this simple: the Huskies have won seven consecutive Apple Cups. And while the Cougs have some intriguing pieces, notably running backs Max Borghi and Deon McIntosh, it won’t be nearly enough to spring an in-state upset.

Prediction: Huskies 44, Cougs 24

It’s the return of fans (finally!) and key players as optimism surrounds the Huskies and Cougars. Get ready for the return of college football with our 10-page special section coming Friday in print and all week online.

College football preview 2021