Browning and the Huskies have been motivated by last season's loss to Alabama in the national playoff.

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HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Jake Browning says his shoulder is fine. Months later, it’s his pride that still aches.

As he recovered from January shoulder surgery, Washington’s junior quarterback spent “a lot” of time watching film of the Huskies’ season-ending loss to Alabama in the College Football Playoff. Stewing on that all offseason has left Browning hungry for the start of the 2017 season.

“That’s the team to beat. I know they didn’t win the national championship last year, but that’s the (best) team in college football, and we got a firsthand experience of that,” Browning said Wednesday at Pac-12 Media Days. “That’s the standard of what we need to be. So I think that was pretty motivating. I think everyone had these low expectations for us … they didn’t really fully expect us to actually (upset Alabama).

“But for us, I’m not happy with how last season went. We lost. We finished with a loss, and to have that sour taste in your mouth now for almost eight months, that’s doesn’t feel good. So there’s no mistaking that there’s some motivation for us and that we can do better.”

Coming off their first outright conference championship in 25 years, the Huskies are the front-runners to repeat as the North Division champions. Of the 52 media members who voted in the Pac-12 preseason poll, UW received 49 first-place votes in the North.

USC, however, was picked to win the conference championship, receiving 28 votes to UW’s 22.

UW coach Chris Petersen, who a year ago took pains to fight back against the hype mounting around his young team, had a wait-and-see posture about the even greater expectations coming into this season.

“We’ll just have to see,” he said Wednesday. “Feel good about our guys. They’ve been working really hard, but fall camp will be really important, to see how we come out of that, then the first couple of games to see where we are.

“I just don’t believe in — I don’t think you ‘reload.’ That’s not our mentality at all. We rebuild. That’s just the mind-set. We’re not even kind of the same team we were last year, so that’s always been our process. We start from ground zero. We take nothing for granted (with) how we coach them from spring ball to fall camp to everything. We just see how it goes from there.”

The Huskies have reached college football’s Final Four. The next step is closing the gap on perennial powers such as Alabama and Clemson.

“We want to be a national-championship team,” senior linebacker Keishawn Bierria said. “That’s how we carry ourselves. That’s how we work.”

Statistically, Browning put together the most productive season ever by a UW quarterback in 2016. He threw 43 touchdown passes, tying the Pac-12 record, and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting. But Alabama — featuring what Petersen reiterated Wednesday was the best college defense he’s seen — shut down Browning and the Huskies’ offense in UW’s 24-7 defeat in Atlanta.

Browning played that game with an injured right shoulder that required surgery a few weeks later. He says he’s 100 percent healthy, and he feels stronger entering this season after committing to a healthier diet.

The Huskies, who return nine offensive starters from the playoff game, have guarded against complacency this offseason.

“Complacency will kill you no matter who you are,” Browning said. “I mean, last year we had hype, and I was barely above .500 as a starter. So I think complacency, if you start reading too much about yourself, how great you are – I don’t care who you are, that’s going to affect you.”