The Huskies enter the season with their highest expectations yet under Chris Petersen. Can they live up to them and make — even win — the College Football Playoff? There's plenty of hype to go around.
Twenty-two of 42 panelists pick Washington to make the College Football Playoff, but none pick the Huskies to win it.
Ten of 16 panelists pick the Huskies to beat Auburn in the season opener.
ESPN analytics give the Huskies a 41 percent chance of making the playoffs and a 10 percent chance of winning it all.
Mark Schlabach: Pac-12 champion, Chris Petersen Coach of the Year, Taylor Rapp Defensive Player of the Year, Trey Adams Comeback Player of the Year
“Washington will finish undefeated and make the CFP. If the Huskies get past Auburn in a very tough opener in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta, they’ll have a realistic chance to finish the regular season with an unblemished record. Washington’s most difficult Pac-12 game will be played at home (against Stanford on Nov. 3), and it doesn’t play Arizona or USC during the regular season. With quarterback Jake Browning, tailback Myles Gaskin and Adams returning, the Huskies might be a legitimate national title contender.”
Phil Steele: Pac-12 champion, College Football Playoff
“Two years ago, Washington was off to a 7-6 season and I pegged them my No. 1 surprise team (non-top-10 team to make the playoff). The Huskies accomplished just that, losing to Alabama in the Peach Bowl. Last year they moved up to No. 14 on my experience chart, but I did not pick them for the playoffs (Washington finished with three losses). This year the Huskies are No. 9 on my experience chart (No. 1 in the Pac-12 again) and I think they have the talent and schedule to run the table and get back to the playoff.”
Bruce Feldman: 12-0
“People can knock Washington quarterback Jake Browning, but he’s played in a lot of tough environments and won a lot of games for the Huskies. He has dangerous running backs, led by Myles Gaskin, but he needs his receiving corps to step up big this fall. They have some good size and athleticism, but they are pretty unproven. Greg Gaines is back in the middle of the defense, and there is speed and playmakers at all three levels. Their title hopes and the hopes of the conference hinge largely on the opener against a good Auburn team in Atlanta. I think Chris Petersen, Browning and this defense, though, can handle it.”
Stu Mandel: 11-1
“Consider that Washington went 7-2 in conference last year despite some decimating injuries. The Huskies’ secondary might be the best in the country, and the D-line will be nasty. All that plus a fourth-year QB (Jake Browning) and 4,000-yard rusher (Myles Gaskin).”
Safety Taylor Rapp makes first-team All-America, and left tackle Trey Adams and cornerback Byron Murphy were named to the second team.
Matt Hayes: “The Huskies’ return to the CFP will begin with a big win in their season opener against Auburn. Momentum from that victory and quarterback Jake Browning playing like it’s 2016 (not 2017) will give a team with talent and experience the confidence to navigate a dicey Pac-12 road schedule (Utah, Oregon, Washington State).
David Kenyon: “The Pac-12 could miss the CFP with a loss by Washington. The North Division is nasty enough to anticipate at least one conference loss for UW, but Stanford and Oregon can’t be trusted to win 11 games.”
Adam Kramer: “The Auburn game will say a lot, but this is a good team that plays just the right schedule at just the right time. Not sure there is a more underappreciated player in college football than running back Myles Gaskin. He could go off this year.”
Five of six panelists pick Washington to make the College Football Playoff, but none have the Huskies advancing any further.
Five of eight panelists pick the Huskies to beat Auburn.
Andy Staples: “The best-case scenario this week for the Pac-12 is that Washington beats Auburn and Auburn then goes on to win the SEC. Then Notre Dame beats Michigan, Michigan goes on to win the Big Ten and Notre Dame goes on to lose to USC and Stanford but not anyone else.”
“In Year 5 of the Chris Petersen era, the meticulous Washington coach will trot out a rarefied group that boasts 16 returning starters from a team that won 10 games. The Huskies take a backseat to no team when it comes to game experience. They’re positioned to run with college football’s elite again this season, and expectations are through the roof in Seattle. All Petersen’s club needs to do now is stay relatively healthy – and win.”