I mentioned last week that the Athlon’s Pac-12 preview magazine had hit the streets, and gave a rundown of the magazine’s all-conference team. As also noted earlier, Athlon’s ranks UW 25th in its pre-season national Top 25.
I now have the full magazine in hand and figured I’d pass along a few more tidbits as pertains to the Huskies.
The Pac-12 issue includes four-page previews of every conference team as well as a record and post-season prediction. For UW, Athlon’s predicts an 8-4 overall record, 6-3 in Pac-12 play, and a spot in the Holiday Bowl against Kansas State (which would be a rematch of the 1999 game won by the Wildcats, 24-20).
What the magazine calls its final “Verdict” on UW reads this way:
“The Huskies are closing the gap on the powers in the Pac-12 but still might be a year away from contending for the North Division title. Coach Steve Sarkisian made much-needed changes on defense, most notably replacing coordinator Nick Holt with Justin Wilcox. There’s no question the Huskies are going to score a bunch of points with quarterback Keith Price and a talented group of receivers returning. If the defense makes major improvement, Washington could finish ahead of Stanford in the Pac-12 North.”
What’s also a staple of the Athlon’s preview is what it calls “Scouting the Huskies (or whatever team is being written about)” in which opposing coaches speak anonymously about the team in question. Here’s what is said about UW:
“What a way for Nick Holt to go out. That Alamo Bowl loss (67-56 defeat vs. Baylor) gave me whiplash. It reminded me of six-man football. That was possibly the worst defensive game I’ve seen so it’s not surprising that (Steve) Sarkisian fired the defensive coordinator after laying a major egg. They also looked defenseless against Stanford (allowing 65 points) and Nebraska (allowing 51 points). Sarkisian got a good one to replace Holt, bringing in Justin Wilcox from Tennessee. That’s a nice hire. I think Wilcox will do well out West. He also brought in Peter Sirmon to coach linebackers; he’s been at Tennessee with Wilcox. He’s a good recruiter and he played in the NFL. … Running back Chris Polk is off to the NFL. He carried the Huskies at times last season. They’ll experience a drop-off at running back but have a number of capable replacements in Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey. … Keith Price is a good quarterback, and he will be even better this year if he can stay healthy. He was banged up a lot last year. If they keep him upright, he will have a monster season.”
There’s also a two-page feature on UW titled “Husky Resurgence” written by former longtime Seattle P-I staffer Dan Raley, who I imagine also penned the Husky preview stuff in the magazine.
The magazine also rates all of the Pac-12 teams by position. Here’s how UW rates on a scale of 1-12 (one being the best):
QB — 2
RB — 10
WR/TE — 2
OL — 4
DL — 6
LB — 9
DB — 4
Probably a higher rating for the OL than some might expect. The three OLs rated ahead of UW’s are USC, Oregon and Stanford. The QB and WR/TE groups rated ahead of UW’s are each USC, which ranks in the top three at every spot except RB, where it is 7th.
Shaq Thompson is also rated as the top incoming Pac-12 recruit with the comment: “Sean Taylor-type hitter with massive frame and extraordinary athleticism.”
Here’s how Athlon’s predicts the other Pac-12 bowl games:
National Title game — USC vs. LSU
Rose Bowl — Oregon vs. Michigan
Alamo Bowl — Stanford vs. Oklahoma State
Sun Bowl — Cal vs. North Carolina State
Las Vegas Bowl — UCLA vs. Boise State
Kraft Fight Hunder Bowl — Utah vs. Navy
New Mexico Bowl — Arizona vs. Colorado State
(So yes, to head off the questions, that means Athlon’s predicts no bowl for WSU even though it projects a record of 6-6 for the Cougars).