Washington was my pick this year to win the Pac-12 Championship. Heck, I even had them challenging for one of those coveted spots that will be announced on Sunday, December 2nd. Washington's opening loss to the Auburn Tigers might have realistically put that spot out of reach, but the Huskies have definitely bounced back after that loss, avenging their loss last year to Arizona State. Last week’s 35-7 win against BYU was also impressive. The Huskies are 4-1 and are currently ranked #10 in the AP Poll.
While Washington's defense was supposed to be their calling card this year, the Huskies’ offensive cupboard was definitely not left bare.
One of the areas that was supposed to be an area of strength for the Huskies this year was their offensive line.
Senior Kaleb McGary, a 6’8”, 324-lb. right tackle who was selected to the 2017 All-Pac-12 First Team, anchors this offensive line and is a potential future high NFL draft pick. However, the Washington Huskies are without their preseason All-American Trey Adams, who injured his back in practice the week before the season opener against Auburn and has not returned. So, the Huskies have plugged in junior Jared Hilbers in his place and he has started every game of the season.
The offensive line has done a pretty good job in five games protecting quarterback Jake Browning and have allowed just eight sacks. I watched the game against BYU and the offensive line literally did not allow a pass rusher near Browning while manhandling the BYU defense. I was literally salivating and dreaming what it would be like to see an offensive line play like that.
The area that has really opened up this year for the Huskies so far is the running game. The Huskies have rushed for 165 yards per game,and will definitely look to establish the run against the UCLA Bruins on Saturday.
Living in Northern California, I actually had the opportunity to watch Jake Browning grow his legend in Folsom, California while breaking California passing records.
Browning, in all of his greatness at Washington, has definitely had a strange run. As a four year starter for Washington, he has had a segment of the Dawg Pound that has not always been sold on what he brings to the table. With that being said, when this year is over, Jake Browning’s name will be all over the Washington Huskies record book.
So far this year, Browning has completed 93 of 140 passes for 1,243 yards. He’s been intercepted only four times and has thrown for 8 touchdowns. Browning is definitely not a running quarterback, but he’s one of those quarterbacks that always seems to know when to run.
Last week against BYU, he had his best game of the season completing 23 of his 25 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown.
With that recent play of UCLA DBs and the lack of an effective pass rush, the passing game looks to be another scary match-up in this game.
Washington relies on two running backs to lead their attack, Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed. Gaskin is currently leading the team with 469 yards on 97 attempts with 3 TD’s. Ahmed has 249 yards on 34 attempts.
While the duo seemed to struggle early, the Washington running game is getting on track. Last week as I watched the game, Ahmed was slightly the more effective runner and in fact led the team in rushing. Both of these guys have absolutely blazing speed and, if either one of them gets in the open field, only Kazmeir Allen on our sideline will have a chance to catch either one of them.
Actually, this might be an area of weakness for the Huskies. Gone from the squad is star Dante Pettis, a second-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers this spring. As a senior in 2017, Pettis had 63 catches for 761 yards and seven touchdowns. The Huskies’ next five returning receivers combined for 69 receptions and two TDs during the 2017 season.
Enter the next Husky star receiver, Aaron Fuller. Fuller currently leads the team with 30 receptions for 474 yards. He’s currently second in the Pac-12 with 94.8 yards per game. Last week against BYU, he had 107 yards on 8 receptions.
Sophomore Ty Jones has turned into a big target for Jake Browning, as he currently leads all receivers with 4 TDs.
Balance seems to be the name of the game for Washington this year. They are pretty balanced on both sides of the ball and their offensive line has provided rushing lanes and protection. That recipe agives offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan a lot of options. Speaking of the coaches, one thing that we all can almost 100% guarantee is that Hamdan and head coach Chris Petersen will dial up some kind of trickery for the UCLA defense. So, be on the lookout for that.
Bruin opponents so far this year have lost a total of two games and, this week, the Huskies will not have any sympathy for UCLA’s current struggles. Look out, Bruins Nation.