In the latest entry of our series previewing what the pre-season magazines say about the Huskies, we turn today to that of Athlon’s Pac-12 preview (with the regional cover featuring Chris Polk pictured).
Athlon’s has an interesting overall projection for UW, picking the Huskies to finish third in the Pac-12 North, but with a 6-3 record, the same as Stanford, which it lists second. However, Athlon’s also has UW with an overall record of 7-5, obviously meaning it expects the Huskies to lose two of three non-conference games — assuming Nebraska to be one and either Eastern Washington or Hawaii at home the other (and I’d assume it’s Hawaii as Athlon’s has high hopes for the Warriors, picking them to go 10-3 this year).
The magazine picks UW to play North Carolina in the Sun Bowl and has UW No. 44 nationally among all 120 D-I teams.
Athlon’s sees the Pac-12 North this way:
1, Oregon, 9-0, 12-1
2, Stanford, 6-3, 9-3
3, Washington, 6-3, 7-5
4, Oregon State, 4-5, 6-6
5, Cal, 3-6, 5-7
6, WSU, 1-8, 3-9
Here’s how it sees the Pac-12 South:
1, USC, 7-2, 9-4
2, ASU, 6-3, 8-4
3, Utah, 6-3, 7-5
4, Arizona, 4-5, 6-6
5, UCLA, 2-7, 4-8
6, Colorado, 1-8, 3-10
As reflected in the above standings, Athlon’s picked Oregon to beat USC in the conference title game, which obviously can’t happen now.
In its Pac-12 Unit rankings, Athlon’s calls UW No. 2 at both running back, receiver/tight end and defensive back (Oregon, first at RB, Arizona first at WR, Oregon first at DB), fourth at DL, sixth at OL, and ninth at both QB and LB. UW is ranked ninth nationally at both WR and RB.
And Athlon’s put a lot of Huskies on its all-conference teams. Making its first team are Polk, DE Hau’oli Jamora, DT Alameda Ta’amu, CB Desmond Trufant and PK Erik Folk. Making the second team are WR Jermaine Kearse, OT Senio Kelemete and LB Cort Dennison. And making the third team are C Drew Schaefer, CB Quinton Richardson and P Kiel Rasp. Polk is also a third-team All-American.
What’s always one of the most interesting segments of the Athlon’s preview is the section of the team preview in which anonymous opposing coaches “size up” the team in question.
Here’s what was said about UW:
“The Huskies look like they were headed for another losing season under (Steve) Sarkisian but responded strong down the stretch winning their last four games. None was bigger than the Holiday Bowl win against Nebraska. That was a big-time win for the program, especially when Nebraska had dominated them earlier in the season (56-21). You could just tell how much more they wanted that game than Nebraska by watching it on television. I think that was huge for the morale of the program. Plus, their entire coaching staff returns (for a third consecutive year). You can’t discount how big of an impact that will have. … Jermaine Kearse is among the league’s top wide receivers so he’ll make that transition that much easier for Jake Locker’s replacement. … I thought Jake Locker was bad last year. They stopped throwing the ball down the field down the stretch. I don’t think it’s that big of a loss, but he did make some plays with his legs.”
Obviously, I imagine those last couple sentences will attract some attention.
Here are a couple of other comments from anonymous opposing coaches about other Pac-12 teams that I found particularly interesting:
Oregon: “Well, Auburn finally showed all of us in the Pac-10 how to slow down Oregon — control the line of scrimmage and play them on a slippery field. … With Darron Thomas and LaMichael James back, these guys won’t miss a beat. To have any chance against them, you have to force Thomas to throw. But he’s really improved in that area so that’s not such a good option anymore.”
USC: “They’re still loaded. They still have the best talent, top to bottom. They have the horses. They have the athletic ability to win every game. … What really surprised me the most about them was the porous defense under Monte Kiffin. He’s forgotten more than what a lot of us have ever known, but they really, really struggled on defense. They were among the worst defenses in the league.”
Colorado: “They were an enigma last year. They had a lot of talent but just didn’t produce. I think that’s a very good job and it’s hard to put your finger on why they didn’t have more success. … Overall, it’s hard to get a good read on what to expect from Colorado. Since they only return one coach from last season, no one really knows what to expect out of them this year.”
Utah: “Kyle Whittingham has already proven to have success (against teams from the Pac-12) so I don’t think that is a big step for that Utah program. I think the Mountain West Conference has been playing at BCS level for a number of years now, so I don’t think Utah will be overwhelmed moving into the Pac-12.”