The University of Washington Huskies could end up being one of college football's surprise teams of the year. In order for that to happen, they'll have to get through a grueling 2012 schedule.
The Huskies play 12 games this year, including three games against Top Five opponents. Sounds like trouble, but they just might have what it takes to knock off some of these teams and to get into the Pac-12 Championship conversation.
Here's a look at the power rankings of every opponent that Washington is going to see on the field.
After going 7-4 last season in the NCAA Division 1 Football Championship Subdivision, Portland State will be looking to take down a Pac-12 team in the University of Washington. At least they’ll be able to say that they tried.
This is pretty much a tune-up game for the Huskies as they go into Pac-12 play the next week.
This is really only one of two easier games on Washington's schedule, but they clearly need to handle business. All signs point to that happening.
Washington put up 52 points against the University of Colorado last season and there’s no reason to think that they can’t do it again this year.
Colorado finished last season ranked at No. 109 in the country in both points scored and points given up. To put it bluntly, Colorado just isn’t a good team and Washington shouldn’t have an issue beating them.
The Buffaloes are Washington’s other easy game this season and they play each other at the end of the season. It’s always good to know that you have some less challenging games at the end of the year.
Washington’s next easiest game is its season opener against San Diego State University. The Aztecs finished last season with a respectable 8-5 record, but only finished fourth in the Mountain West Conference.
Washington just needs to play good, consistent football and they should be fine for this one. Another important area for the Huskies to focus on is taking advantage of this game being played at home.
The Huskies do need to look out for the Aztecs new strategy of not punting after they cross the 50-yard line, but that really shouldn't be an issue.
They need to use the excitement of opening night and ride it to a relatively easy win against an inferior San Diego State squad.
The Pac-12 is loaded with both great teams and mediocre ones. Oregon State University is the epitome of one of those mediocre teams.
The Beavers were able to find some success in the air finishing the season as the No. 19 ranked program in passing yards per game, but it all goes downhill from there. They were almost last in rushing yards per game and in the bottom quarter for total defense.
The Huskies will take care of the Beavers and move about their season with ease.
The Wildcats finished last year ranked third in the country in passing yards per game. There isn’t anybody that can honestly say that Foles wasn’t the reason for that success.
What does this mean for the Huskies?
It means that Washington now has advantages on both sides of the ball. The offense will be going up against a Wildcat team that gave up close to 36 points per game last year, while the defense will be competing against an offense that is in rebuilding mode.
This one shouldn’t be too close.
Here’s a prediction: Keith Price goes off for six total touchdowns in this game.
Offensively, the Washington State University Cougars are a good team that knows how to play their game. Their big issue is that they can’t run the ball at all. If their passing game doesn’t get going, then people are going to see a lot of quick possessions.
Defensively, the Cougars are a mess that gave up almost 32 points per game last year. That’s a recipe for Price’s success. The more times the Huskies get possession of the ball, the more opportunities Price is given to operate.
Washington has the potential to blow out their in-state rivals in this one.
Looking at this game, all signs point to a potential “trap” game for the Huskies.
Washington is the better, more experienced team, but Cal has a few distinct advantages in this one.
The game is at Cal’s home and is nationally televised. On top of that, Cal’s next opponent for the following week is going to be the Oregon Ducks at home. Don’t you think they’ll want to make some kind of statement on national television, telling people that Oregon is going to have its hands full?
This is one where Washington needs to play Washington football. If they go outside of themselves then they’ll likely see this one get away quickly, but if they’re able to stay calm and composed, then Washington should win.
Andrew Luck’s departure from Stanford University means that the Cardinal aren’t close to what they were last year. Sure, they are still a good team, currently ranked at No. 21 in the AP Top 25 poll, but they are just missing too big of a piece.
That doesn’t mean that the Cardinal will be an easy team to beat, it just means that they’ll be less challenging to prepare for in this upcoming season.
If this game were being played at Stanford, then there might be a reason to be slightly concerned, but that concern goes out the window when you see that it’s being played at home.
Be on the lookout for somewhat of a statement game out of the Huskies; a game that shows the rest of the country just how good this team could be.
Washington will have its hands full with the fifth-ranked Oregon Ducks.
Oregon always looks like they stepped out of a Nike factory whenever they take the field, and it fits because they play as good as they look.
Their team is primarily based around speed which makes playing sound defense that much more important for the Huskies. On top of that, the Huskies also don’t have the advantage of playing at home as they have to travel to Eugene, Oregon for the game.
Price is going to have to be in his Alamo Bowl form if Washington is going to have a shot at winning this one. Lucky for the Huskies, Price plays well in big games.
After traveling to Salt Lake City, Utah and beating the University of Utah Utes last season, the Huskies might end up not being too overwhelmed by the Utes’ high-caliber defense.
They still need to be concerned though.
The Utes finished the 2011 season ranked No. 20 in points against, quite an accomplishment. The Huskies are going to have to look out for Utah’s defense.
It might be early, but ESPN’s Todd McShay has already released his 2013 NFL Mock Draft and the projected No. 1 selection is Utah’s Star Lotulelei. At defensive tackle, Lotulelei brings a combination of speed, quickness and strength that a 6’4” 320-pound person isn’t supposed to have.
Another important aspect of this game is that it’s near the end of their schedule. If the Huskies are playing well and in a position to possibly make a run at the Pac-12 title, then they’ll really have to be careful about this game.
It all comes down to if the Huskies can contain Lotulelei and take care of the football. If they can, then they have an opportunity at beating Utah this season.
After losing in last year’s National Championship, LSU is on a mission to get back to the big game and win it. Washington being directly in that path is pretty unlucky for the Huskies.
The Huskies have to travel to Death Valley in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, widely known as one of the loudest stadiums in the country, to attempt to pull out an upset over the Tigers.
If you put Utah’s defensive ability and Oregon’s speed together, then you would come up with LSU’s defense. The Tiger defense only gave up 11.3 points per game last year and that kind of dominance is built on consistency. Expect them to have another great defense this year.
The Tiger’s have one weakness that the Huskies might be able to exploit. There is some uncertainty about how well Zach Mettenberger will play in his first year as a starting quarterback.
The game between the Huskies and Tigers will only be Mettenberger’s second start which means Washington needs to apply pressure and force Mettenberger into making poor decisions with the football. It’s really the only chance that Washington has if they want to steal this one from LSU.
The first six games of Washington’s schedule couldn’t be much more difficult. Sure, they start with San Diego State and play a poor Portland State squad, but the other four games are all against Top 25 teams.
A tough season also means good games, and fans will be in for a treat as they see USC traveling to Washington in what could be a trap game for the Trojans. Washington is returning 16 of its 22 starters from last year and it wouldn’t be out of the question to see them play with a lot of poise.
From USC’s side of things, Washington is just another game on its road towards a BCS National Championship, so maybe they’ll underestimate what the Huskies can do.
USC is also an experienced team that has one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Matt Barkley. Chances are that Barkley will handle business against Washington, but an upset is always a possibility.
That’s why they play the game.