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Seattle has gotten used to winning since Chris Peterson bolted the “Smurf Turf” and took the job to overlook the Washington Huskies football program. U-Dub has won the Pac-12 title two of the last three seasons and enters 2019-20 the reigning champs after winning an ugly battle against Utah in last year’s title game. This season represents the biggest rebuild the program has gone under since he arrived, but you wouldn’t know it with the buzz surrounding the team with Georgia Transfer Jacob Eason set to take over under center. Jake Browning had many loyalists but also had many detractors due to his inability to come up big in the biggest of games; check the stat lines for the most recent Rose Bowl for confirmation. With the slate now wiped clean, it’s time to see if Eason sitting out a season was worth it as the Huskies embark on a new chapter in the program. Washington is currently a +130 co-favorite to win the Pac-12 North at offshore sportsbooks.
Washington’s all-time leading rusher, Myles Gaskin, will no longer be lining up in the backfield. Finding someone to step in and replace his near 1,300 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns will prove to be impossible. Salvon Ahmed is likely to get first crack with him being Gaskins’ understudy last season, and he’ll get the benefit of running behind one of the best run blocking offensive lines in the conference as well as the country. The quadrant of Nick Harris, Luke Wattenberg, Jaxson Kirkland and Jared Hilbers is almost as good as it gets at the collegiate level. With Trey Adams back in the mix off a nasty injury, it’s safe to assume Washington won’t have many issues opening holes for the running game or in pass protection. The wide receiver corps returns some solid talent that combined for 144 catches, 1,949 yards and 10 TD a season ago, but the main goal will be keeping stud tight end Hunter Bryant healthy after being forced to miss 15 games his first two seasons due to knee injuries. When healthy, he’s the Huskies’ most dangerous target.
Washington marched one of the nation’s most complete defenses onto the gridiron last season. It ranked No. 12 overall in conceding just over 306 total yards per game, and ranked No. 5 in points allowed by limiting the opposition to an average of 16.4 points per game. Only two senior starters return from that unit in the forms of defensive end Benning Potoa’e and safety Myles Bryant. Washington has recruited well under the new coaching staff, so a whole new breed of defenders will be making their debuts in 2019-20. Most notable is Tuli Letuligasenoa who is expected to be a whirling dervish anchoring the middle of the line. The back seven takes a major hit with both linebacker slots needing to be filled and four of the five players from last year’s secondary having since graduated or bolted early for the NFL. The replacements might not have household names just yet, but you can bet your bottom dollar many of them will become popular real quick as highly touted a bulk of them were when being recruited.
It’s all going to need to come together quickly for the 2019-20 Huskies if they’re to rattle off a fourth straight double-digit win season. Eason is a heck of a talent, but he’s going to need someone to separate themselves in the wide receiver corps for the offense to really start humming. The defense will also need some time to gel. Thankfully, the schedule allows for the team to find itself over the first month before the key games on the docket start showing up. The betting markets look to be a firm believer in what Peterson has done with the program evidenced by heavy -145 juice being attached to the over 9.5 of their season win total odds at top rated sportsbooks. Having most of the perceived “tough” games at home is likely playing a huge role. That said, this team doesn’t look to be a worthy CFP entrant, and it could get more than it bargained for in what looks to be a dramatically improved Pac-12.