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Here's why there's so much 2016 Washington Huskies hype. Now can they meet it?

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A 7-6 team is now being talked about as a Power 5 favorite. Wait, what? Here's why that's happening, and why we should (slightly) pump the brakes.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.

1. The case for Washington

I enjoy it when my numbers get a little bit weird. For the most part, putting together 2016 S&P+ projections was a predictable exercise. It was obvious that Alabama and Clemson would be near the top. (Slight surprise: a massively experienced LSU slipping between them at No. 2.) Oklahoma and Florida State were close. USC's experience and recruiting bumped the Trojans into the top 10.

But sitting at No. 10 was a particularly anti-social pick: Chris Petersen's Washington Huskies. They haven't lost fewer than four games since 2000, and they don't recruit at an elite level, and they're in the top 10? What?

I found a unique narrative I could explore, and I was excited. This Washington preview was one of the ones I most looked forward to writing.

Then a funny thing happened. The Bandwagon Effect took over. I'm not going to claim to have started this -- ESPN's FPI, which uses a few of the same factors that I do, projected the Huskies 13th -- but however it started, Washington became very popular. Athlon ranked the Huskies 11th in its preseason top 25, Phil Steele eighth. One set of SB Nation picks has UW in the Rose Bowl.

However we got here, we're here. Washington is the bandwagon team of 2016.

How does this happen? What are prognosticators seeing?

When the Huskies were good last year, they were incredible.

They were the Arkansas of 2015.

In 2014, Arkansas ranked fifth in S&P+ while going just 7-6 because they were astoundingly good in almost every win. In terms of single-game performances, they hit the 95th percentile or higher more times than Alabama did. Meanwhile, four of their six losses came by a touchdown or less, and five losses came against top-20 teams.

The Razorbacks lost a few too many difference-makers on defense, then lost their leading rusher to injury. That led to a slip in 2015, but only so much; they were still 15th.

Washington is similar. The Huskies hit the 91st percentile or better in six of 13 games last year, and while there were some pretty significant ups and downs, they only fell below the 50th percentile three times. When the Huskies found an advantage, they exploited it with ruthless efficiency. They eked by USC, 17-12; average score of their other six wins: Washington 45, Opponent 11. They lost to Boise State by three, California by six, and Oregon by six. They won seven, but they were closer to 10 wins than five.

They return so much.

Washington is a year ahead of schedule. In last year's preview, I said the Huskies would be pretty good in 2016 but would just be too young to do much in 2015. They were one of the country's youngest teams -- freshman quarterback, freshman running back, freshmen and sophomores on the offensive and defensive lines, sophomores at linebacker and in the secondary -- but they broke through anyway. And now they reach the year in which they were supposed to break through.

That's the entire recipe, and it's an extraordinarily effective one. The defense was outstanding (ninth in Def. S&P+), and the offense was better than it should have been (37th in Off. S&P+) considering the all-freshman backfield.

When you are that young, improvement the next year is virtually guaranteed. And if the Huskies were already up to 13th in overall S&P+, then ... well ... the top 10 isn't far away.

2. The case against Washington

This doesn't come without risk. Here are a couple of the factors still working against the Huskies.

The previous Washington-esque team got worse.

Yes, there were extenuating circumstances, and the 2014 Hogs weren't nearly as young as the 2015 Huskies. But S&P+ projected them really high last fall, and they came up short.

Part of Arkansas' problem in 2014 was executing well in close games -- the Razorbacks were 0-4 in one-possession finishes -- and that isn't something that automatically improves. While luck is one huge factor in close games, so are quarterback play, special teams, coaching, etc. The Hogs did improve to 3-3 in such games last year, but that wasn't a 180-degree flip.

Washington was 1-3 in one-possession games last year. It's not like that means the Huskies will automatically go 3-1 in 2016.

Washington only beat one good team last year.

Arkansas finished higher in 2014 than the Huskies did in 2015, in part because the Razorbacks thumped two good teams: Ole Miss and LSU.

Washington did win at USC, but that was it. Against the six other top-50 teams on the docket, they went 0-6. They were competitive in every game, but they aren't guaranteed to suddenly start closing the deal.

Improvement isn't always linear.

I expected Washington to stagnate in 2015 and surge in 2016, but we've seen a team peak earlier than expected before. That's often followed by some regression to the mean. Sophomore slumps exist, whether opponents adjust to you, you start reading your own press clippings, etc.

As optimistic as my numbers are, I would say that if Washington finishes in the S&P+ top 20, that's a success.

Petersen is one of football's most proven coaches. At Boise State, he engineered success greater than a No. 12 S&P+ rating (ninth in 2008, first in 2010, fourth in 2011) with far less-touted recruits.

After what the Huskies did last year, it wouldn't surprise me if they lived up to top-10 hype. Still, I'm setting the bar a little bit lower. This year should be as much about solidifying gains as winning the Pac-12.

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 10-3 | Final F/+ Rk: 13 | Final S&P+ Rk: 12
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
4-Sep at Boise State 37 13-16 L 54% 16% +10.5 +9.0
12-Sep Sacramento State N/A 49-0 W 94% 100% +21.6
19-Sep Utah State 53 31-17 W 93% 98% +11.1 +8.5
26-Sep California 29 24-30 L 35% 5% -6.8 -2.0
8-Oct at USC 17 17-12 W 78% 76% +24.9 +22.0
17-Oct Oregon 23 20-26 L 84% 24% -22.3 -8.5
24-Oct at Stanford 6 14-31 L 52% 12% -5.3 -17.0
31-Oct Arizona 77 49-3 W 99% 100% +38.0 +46.0
7-Nov Utah 22 23-34 L 47% 17% -17.1 -12.5
14-Nov at Arizona State 50 17-27 L 49% 29% -18.6 -7.5
21-Nov at Oregon State 107 52-7 W 97% 100% +24.8 +30.0
27-Nov Washington State 54 45-10 W 91% 97% +23.8 +35.0
26-Dec vs. Southern Miss 56 44-31 W 95% 98% +4.3 +4.5

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 33.9 37 16.8 9
Points Per Game 30.6 55 18.8 13

3. Next step: beating good teams

The Huskies' performances were very much dictated by the quality of the opponent.

It was perhaps predictable that the freshman-led offense was the more volatile unit.

  • Washington vs. F/+ top 50:
    Record: 1-6 | Average percentile performance: 57% (~top 55) | Average score: Opp 25, UW 18 (-7) | Yards per play: Opp 5.3, UW 5.0 (-0.3)
  • Washington vs. No. 51+:
    Record: 6-0 | Average percentile performance: 95% (~top 6) | Average score: UW 45, Opp 11 (+34) | Yards per play: UW 7.0, Opp 4.4 (+2.6)

The defense allowed 0.9 more yards per play against top-50 teams, and the offense averaged 2 fewer yards per play. It probably goes without saying that a lot of this variability came from the quarterback position. Browning's passer rating against the top-50 teams he played was 104.7, but 188.2 against everyone else.

You're going to play better against bad teams than good ones on average, but you're almost never going to see splits more stark than that. And until Browning can prove he's ready to beat better defenses, Washington is pretty close to its ceiling.

But again, he was a true freshman. That he was able to torch anybody is a sign of a good things.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.28 57 IsoPPP+ 98.3 76
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 42.7% 54 Succ. Rt. + 106.8 44
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 29.3 56 Def. FP+ 28.1 39
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.3 82 Redzone S&P+ 95.7 96
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 20.2 ACTUAL 22 +1.8
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 61 69 44 76
RUSHING 76 35 37 32
PASSING 50 86 53 94
Standard Downs 65 50 69
Passing Downs 52 38 67
Q1 Rk 80 1st Down Rk 42
Q2 Rk 61 2nd Down Rk 39
Q3 Rk 18 3rd Down Rk 61
Q4 Rk 106

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Jake Browning 6'2, 205 So. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9619 233 369 2955 16 10 63.1% 31 7.8% 6.9
K.J. Carta-Samuels 6'2, 219 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9109 10 24 124 0 1 41.7% 3 11.1% 3.4
Jeff Lindquist 6'3, 244 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9051
Tony Rodriguez 6'3, 185 Jr. NR NR
Daniel Bridge-Gadd 6'2, 195 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8236

4. No pressure, Jake

You've only got the weight of an entire team on your shoulders.

It's funny how success only builds pressure. If Browning would have struggled the entire season and maybe gotten benched a few times, he would have entered 2016 with pretty manageable expectations. Instead, he showed flashes of brilliance against lesser defenses. He was 16-for-24 for 263 yards and four scores against Arizona, 18-for-20 for 211 and four more against Oregon State.

Because of that, before actually torching a good defense (and before producing a Passing S&P+ ranking better than 86th), he's showing up on Heisman watch lists. That's unfair.

Still, with what Myles Gaskin was able to do, it's clear that the running game is less of a concern. Gaskin was in the middle of a typical up-and-down freshman year (6.8 yards per carry against USC, Oregon and Stanford, then 4.6 against Arizona and Utah) when he found a lovely feature-back rhythm down the stretch. In his last four games, he averaged 25 carries per game and 5.6 yards per carry.

Gaskin can dance too much, and his line was banged up and leaky (nine players started at least two games, and UW ranked 75th in stuff rate), but Washington still ended up a healthy 35th in Rushing S&P+ and returns virtually everybody involved in the run game. The only losses are center Siosifa Tufunga and boom-or-bust backup back Dwayne Washington.

Junior back Lavon Coleman showed some of the same all-or-nothing tendencies, and incoming four-star back Sean McGrew should provide extra competition. The run game should be excellent. At least a few Washington opponents will then stack the box and dare Browning and a retooled receiving corps to beat them. Will it work?

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Myles Gaskin TB 5'10, 193 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8791 227 1302 14 5.7 6.8 38.8% 1 0
Dwayne Washington TB 47 282 4 6.0 10.8 29.8% 4 3
Jake Browning QB 6'2, 205 So. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9619 34 230 1 6.8 4.4 55.9% 4 2
Lavon Coleman TB 5'11, 220 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8769 33 176 0 5.3 5.7 36.4% 0 0
Chico McClatcher WR 5'7, 176 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8758 19 153 3 8.1 11.1 42.1% 0 0
Jomon Dotson TB 5'10, 175 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8513 18 42 0 2.3 1.5 27.8% 1 0
Deontae Cooper TB 16 98 1 6.1 2.1 62.5% 0 0
Jeff Lindquist QB 6'3, 244 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9051 12 36 1 3.0 1.6 25.0% 1 1
Jaydon Mickens WR 7 44 1 6.3 7.1 57.1% 0 0
Ralph Kinne TB 5'10, 216 Jr. NR NR 7 18 0 2.6 2.7 28.6% 0 0
K.J. Carta-Samuels QB 6'2, 219 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9109 6 30 1 5.0 1.8 50.0% 1 1
Sean McGrew TB 5'7, 173 Fr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9113







Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Jaydon Mickens WR 94 58 692 61.7% 25.0% 7.4 55.3% 48.9% 1.35
Joshua Perkins TE 61 36 539 59.0% 16.2% 8.8 72.1% 54.1% 1.57
Dante Pettis WR 6'1, 187 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8453 58 30 414 51.7% 15.4% 7.1 48.3% 39.7% 1.64
Brayden Lenius WR 6'5, 228 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8377 35 26 307 74.3% 9.3% 8.8 60.0% 65.7% 1.12
John Ross (2014) WR 5'11, 196 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9056 30 17 371 56.7% 7.9% 12.4 53.3% N/A N/A
Dwayne Washington TB 30 25 315 83.3% 8.0% 10.5 50.0% 40.0% 2.40
Darrell Daniels TE 6'4, 237 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9329 22 19 250 86.4% 5.9% 11.4 59.1% 63.6% 1.67
Marvin Hall WR 17 9 206 52.9% 4.5% 12.1 70.6% 52.9% 2.01
Isaiah Renfro WR 6'1, 206 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8898 17 13 178 76.5% 4.5% 10.5 70.6% 58.8% 1.40
Chico McClatcher SLOT 5'7, 176 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8758 11 8 78 72.7% 2.9% 7.1 45.5% 27.3% 2.58
Myles Gaskin TB 5'10, 193 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8791 10 6 19 60.0% 2.7% 1.9 60.0% 10.0% 1.54
Drew Sample TE 6'5, 260 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8244 6 5 45 83.3% 1.6% 7.5 83.3% 66.7% 0.86
Lavon Coleman TB 5'11, 220 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8769 5 4 31 80.0% 1.3% 6.2 80.0% 60.0% 0.95
Deontae Cooper TB
4 2 4 50.0% 1.1% 1.0 75.0% 0.0% 0.00
Quinten Pounds WR 5'11, 178 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8345 2 0 0 0.0% 0.5% 0.0 50.0% 0.0% 0.00
Connor Griffin WR 6'3, 225 Jr. NR NR
Max Richmond SLOT 5'9, 182 So. NR NR
Andre Baccellia WR 5'10, 166 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8504

5. Big Play John Ross

If you could have pinpointed one more thing Washington needed in 2015, it was probably a deep-threat speedster on the outside, preferably one who could also provide a threat in the return game. Tight end Joshua Perkins was pretty good at going up the seam here and there, but the top two wideouts, Jaydon Mickens and Dante Pettis, combined to average just 7.3 yards per target.

Basically, Washington could have used someone like John Ross III. Ross was one of college football's better deep threats in 2014, averaging 21.8 yards per catch and 24.7 yards per kick return while also providing stellar cornerback play when asked.

Ross suffered two meniscus tears in his knee last winter, then re-aggravated the injury in spring practice. He sat out 2015, but he appears totally healthy now.

Mickens and Perkins are gone, but with Ross, Pettis, possession man Brayden Lenius, and tight end Darrell Daniels (11.4 yards per target) all back, the ceiling for this receiving corps is quite a bit higher than last year's.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 103.9 2.85 3.4 39.3% 67.5% 19.7% 86.7 6.0% 10.0%
Rank 50 70 50 60 54 75 83 87 106
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Coleman Shelton C 6'4, 292 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7000 13 20
Siosifa Tufunga C 13 17
Jake Eldrenkamp LG 6'5, 284 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8404 11 11
Trey Adams LT 6'8, 306 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8938 9 9
Andrew Kirkland RT 6'4, 313 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8157 7 7
Kaleb McGary RT 6'7, 300 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8969 6 6
Shane Brostek RG 6'4, 285 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.0000 2 5
Jesse Sosebee RG 6'5, 314 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7966 2 2
Matt James C 6'5, 291 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8479 2 2
Michael Kneip LG 6'5, 284 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.0000 0 0
Henry Roberts LG 6'6, 290 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9049

Jared Hilbers LT 6'7, 282 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8438

Devin Burleson RT 6'8, 301 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7593

Luke Wattenberg OL 6'4, 275 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9005

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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.16 19 IsoPPP+ 123.9 10
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 39.4% 50 Succ. Rt. + 114.9 20
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 32.2 26 Off. FP+ 33.4 11
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 3.3 7 Redzone S&P+ 120.0 13
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 22.7 ACTUAL 27.0 +4.3
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 31 13 20 10
RUSHING 19 10 16 11
PASSING 68 27 23 25
Standard Downs 12 24 9
Passing Downs 17 9 21
Q1 Rk 25 1st Down Rk 7
Q2 Rk 16 2nd Down Rk 9
Q3 Rk 16 3rd Down Rk 10
Q4 Rk 3

6. Tightening the grip

Pete Kwiatkowski has now been Petersen's defensive coordinator for six years, and he has produced elite defenses for four of those six years. There were blips in 2013 at Boise State and 2014 at Washington, but in the other four seasons, Kwiatkowski defenses have ranked second in Def. S&P+ (2010), ninth (2011), 11th (2012), and ninth (2015). You're not going to find many FBS coordinators who have pulled that off.

Washington's defense was devastating in its ability to adapt. The Huskies improved with each quarter -- 25th in Q1 S&P+, 16th in Q2 and Q3, third in Q4 -- and pulled off a devastating combination: limiting big plays on standard downs and limiting much of anything on passing downs. You had to remain patient and take whatever the Huskies gave you, and by the fourth quarter, they knew what you were going to try to take.

And again, this was with a young unit, one that was pretty banged up at linebacker and in the secondary. Washington ranked ninth in Def. S&P+ last year and now returns five of six linemen, eight of 11 linebackers, and seven of eight defensive backs. Just think of how adaptable this defense could be when it isn't staffed by sophomores.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 111.6 2.56 3.37 33.5% 66.0% 20.5% 134.9 6.8% 9.3%
Rank 26 20 81 16 65 56 17 14 27
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Taniela Tupou DT 13 32.0 4.3% 5.5 0.0 0 1 1 0
Elijah Qualls NT 6'1, 321 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9452 10 21.0 2.8% 4.5 4.5 0 0 0 0
Greg Gaines DT 6'2, 318 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8550 13 20.0 2.7% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Vita Vea NT 6'5, 329 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8750 13 15.0 2.0% 3.0 1.0 0 0 1 0
Will Dissly DE 6'4, 273 Jr. NR 0.7826 13 7.0 0.9% 3.0 1.0 0 0 1 0
Jaylen Johnson DE 6'3, 285 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8525 13 6.0 0.8% 2.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Damion Turpin DE 6'3, 284 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8658 7 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Shane Bowman DE 6'4, 290 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8210
Benning Potoa'e DE 6'3, 271 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9099
Jason Scrempos DE 6'6, 279 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8578
Ricky McCoy DT 6'2, 302 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8413
Levi Onwuzurike DE 6'4, 262 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8997








Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Azeem Victor MIKE 6'3, 227 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8400 13 77.0 10.3% 9.0 1.5 1 6 2 0
Keishawn Bierria WILL 6'1, 226 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8600 13 64.0 8.5% 7.5 3.5 0 0 1 0
Cory Littleton SAM 13 52.0 6.9% 11.0 6.0 0 2 0 0
Travis Feeney BUCK 13 48.0 6.4% 17.5 8.0 0 2 3 0
Ben Burr-Kirven LB 6'0, 215 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8569 12 26.5 3.5% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Joe Mathis BUCK 6'2, 256 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9193 11 21.5 2.9% 6.0 2.0 0 0 1 0
Scott Lawyer LB 11 16.5 2.2% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Psalm Wooching SAM 6'4, 230 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8378 13 16.5 2.2% 4.5 2.0 0 1 0 1
Tevis Bartlett SAM 6'2, 229 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8482 13 9.0 1.2% 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Sean Constantine MIKE 6'2, 232 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8777 13 8.0 1.1% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Connor O'Brien BUCK 6'3, 240 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8650 7 7.0 0.9% 3.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Matt Preston WILL 6'2, 219 So. NR NR 2 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jake Wambaugh MIKE 6'1, 230 So. NR NR
DJ Beavers WILL 6'0, 224 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8696
Jusstis Warren LB 6'2, 250 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8482
Kyler Manu SAM 6'1, 237 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8389
Camilo Eifler OLB 6'2, 214 Fr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9320
Brandon Wellington OLB 6'0, 215 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9129
Amandre Williams SAM 6'3, 223 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8529
Myles Rice BUCK 6'4, 246 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) NR

7. Three playmakers gone

That said, it's not like the Huskies lost nothing. Tackle Taniela Tupou and linebackers Cory Littleton and Travis Feeney combined for 33.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks last year. Granted, backup tackles Greg Gaines and Vita Vea (both freshmen in 2015) and linebackers Joe Mathis and Psalm Wooching all showed playmaking potential in their own right. But the bar is pretty high.

While the pass-rushing potential is massive, UW didn't make quite enough run stuffs last year, and Taniela, Littleton, and Feeney were responsible for most of the stuffs the Huskies made. Middle linebacker Azeem Victor, however, still gives them one proven defender in this regard.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Brian Clay SS 13 54.5 7.3% 1.5 0.5 0 1 0 0
Budda Baker FS 5'10, 184 Jr. 4 stars (6.0) 0.9721 12 40.5 5.4% 1.5 0 2 7 0 0
Sidney Jones CB 6'0, 180 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7985 13 38.5 5.1% 3.5 0 4 10 4 2
Darren Gardenhire NB 5'11, 187 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8568 13 35.0 4.7% 0 0 2 6 0 1
Kevin King CB 6'3, 190 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8628 11 31.5 4.2% 4.5 0 3 5 1 0
JoJo McIntosh SS 6'1, 208 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8457 13 29.0 3.9% 0 0 1 3 0 0
Ezekiel Turner SS 6'2, 210 Jr. NR 0.8549 12 17.5 2.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Trevor Walker (2014) S 5'11, 190 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8528 8 12.0 1.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Beaver FS 6'0, 188 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8995 6 11.0 1.5% 0 0 1 1 0 0
Jordan Miller CB 6'1, 176 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8467 13 4.5 0.6% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Brandon Lewis NB 5'11, 187 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8398 11 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Hayden Schuh DB 6'0, 205 Sr. NR NR 11 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ian Biddle CB 6'0, 180 So. NR NR
Austin Joyner CB 5'10, 190 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9074
Taylor Rapp FS 6'0, 206 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8722
Byron Murphy CB 5'11, 172 Fr. 4 stars (6.0) 0.9518
Isaiah Gilchrist CB 5'10, 188 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9065
Kentrell Love DB 6'1, 165 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8802

8. All the depth in the world

Washington's run defense was a major strength in 2015, but the pass defense was merely good. That balance could flip. The run defense does have some questions, but the pass rush should still be strong, and the secondary returns virtually everybody.

Corners Sidney Jones and Kevin King combined for eight TFLs, seven interceptions, and 15 breakups last year, and while starting safety Brian Clay is gone, Budda Baker, Darren Gardenhire, and JoJo McIntosh were all major contributors last year. And blue-chip corner Byron Murphy joins the party this fall as well.

Washington's pass defense was a lot like its pass offense: good against bad teams, decent against good ones -- against top-50 teams, the Huskies allowed a 125.2 passer rating, and against lesser teams, 107.0. That's not as stark a difference as what we saw from Browning, but it's a difference. And experience should shore that up a bit.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Korey Durkee 47 43.6 9 14 14 59.6%
Jake Browning 6'2, 205 So. 6 30.0 0 0 4 66.7%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Tristan Vizcaino 6'2, 201 Jr. 76 61.8 27 0 35.5%
Cameron Van Winkle 5'10, 189 Sr. 3 65.0 1 0 33.3%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Cameron Van Winkle 5'10, 189 Sr. 49-49 10-12 83.3% 6-8 75.0%
Tristan Vizcaino 6'2, 201 Jr. 1-1 0-1 0.0% 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Chico McClatcher KR 5'7, 176 So. 25 23.3 0
Deontae Cooper KR 4 10.5 0
Dante Pettis PR 6'1, 187 Jr. 16 16.9 2
Chico McClatcher PR 5'7, 176 So. 6 12.0 0
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 63
Field Goal Efficiency 52
Punt Return Success Rate 52
Kick Return Success Rate 23
Punt Success Rate 110
Kickoff Success Rate 54

9. Ross + Pettis = wow

John Ross scored twice on kick returns in 2014, and Dante Pettis scored twice on punt returns last year. Kicks and coverage are question marks, and Cameron Van Winkle seems like a rock solid place-kicker, but this return game, while slightly all-or-nothing, is terrifying.

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
3-Sep Rutgers 87 23.6 91%
10-Sep Idaho 108 31.6 97%
17-Sep Portland State NR 35.1 98%
24-Sep at Arizona 64 10.8 73%
30-Sep Stanford 16 5.1 62%
8-Oct at Oregon 18 -1.5 47%
22-Oct Oregon State 86 23.3 91%
29-Oct at Utah 39 5.7 63%
5-Nov at California 49 8.7 69%
12-Nov USC 8 3.2 57%
19-Nov Arizona State 57 16.8 83%
25-Nov at Washington State 48 8.5 69%
Projected wins: 9.0
Five-Year F/+ Rk 15.0% (39)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 30 / 29
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 5 / 2.5
2015 TO Luck/Game +0.9
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 76% (72%, 79%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 7.7 (-0.7)

10. Friday night in Seattle

I don't know, do you think the Friday night home game at Stanford might be a pretty big deal? Washington has three likely wins and a trip to Arizona before that, while Stanford will have already played both USC and UCLA. This will be the game that defines the Pac-12 North race. (It bears mentioning, though, that both of these teams will still have to play at Oregon.) If Washington wins, then an 11-1 record (or better) is absolutely on the table.

The Washington hype has grown quickly and dramatically, and it's not even because of some unreasonable bowl bump. The Huskies were both young as hell and really good last year. If Petersen is able to keep egos in check and keep everyone's development moving forward as planned, then the sky is the limit for this program over the next couple of years.

I understand the hype, and I think there's a solid chance the Huskies live up to it. But instead of "top 10 and 10-11 wins," I'm trying to set the bar closer to "top 20 and nine wins."

Petersen has a track record, a hell of a coaching staff, and a far more experienced two-deep. I would be shocked if the Huskies don't solidify last year's gains, even if they fall short in the Pac-12 North race.