College football is on its way back, so we continue with the Today’s U Top 25 preseason rankings. We’re trotting out a new team each day. We started at No. 25 and we’ll build each day until we reach No. 1.
No. 13: WASHINGTON HUSKIES
Last Season: 7-6 (4-5 Pac-12 North, won 44-31 against Southern Miss in the Heart of Dallas Bowl).
Last Five Seasons: 38-28 (five bowl games).
Coach: Chris Peterson (third year, 15-12).
Overview: Expectations are high for the Huskies, who closed last season with a rush by winning their final three games (by a combined 141-48 margin). There’s breakthrough talent in the offensive backfield and plenty of veteran leaders on defense. Washington might be ready to make a move in the Pac-12 North Division.
Player To Watch: RB Myles Gaskin, a potential star who raced for 1,302 rushing yards last season, the second-highest total for any freshman runner in 2015. Gaskin is 5-foot-10, 193 pounds, but he’s sturdy and durable, capable of grinding out the tough yardage after initial contact.
Top Newcomer: Washington might have a future great one in LB Camilo Eifler, who could contribute as a pass-rusher immediately. Eifler’s high-school coach in Oakland? It was Napoleon Kaufman, one of the best running backs in Huskies history.
All-Conference Potential: DB Budda Baker, DB Sidney Jones, LB Azeem Victor.
Key Question: Is Washington ready for prime-time status? Peterson has built the Huskies back and it’s now expected they rise to elite status in the Pac-12. But that status can’t be awarded. It must be earned.
Best Unit: Defensive backs. The Huskies have one of the nation’s top secondaries, including junior FS Budda Baker and junior CB Sidney Jones, both first-team All-Pac-12 selections last season. Senior CB Kevin King also started last season.
Good Stat: Washington’s return game is dynamite. In the previous two seasons, punt returner Dante Pettis has three touchdowns (of 89, 87 and 76 yards), while kickoff returner John Ross has three scores of his own (of 100, 100 and 96 yards).
Bad Stat: The Huskies have problems winning the close ones. Of Washington’s six losses, three were decided by six points or fewer.
Big Game: Sept. 30, Stanford. This Friday night home game could do a world of good for Washington’s confidence. The Huskies have dropped nine of their last 11 meetings against the Cardinal, including three straight. Beating Stanford would legitimize the feeling that Washington is on an upward trajectory.
Peterson seems to have Washington heading in the right direction. Incredible but true: The Huskies haven’t had double-digit victories since 1991. That’s a 25-year drought. Washington’s defense is a championship-caliber unit. If the offense continues to make strides — and QB Jake Browning showed he could be the real thing while starting 12 games as a true freshman in 2015 — don’t be surprised if the Huskies become one of this season’s surprise contenders.
Next: No. 12 Ole Miss.
ICYMI: No. 14 Baylor; No. 15 Houston; No. 16 Georgia; No. 17 San Diego State; No. 18 TCU; No. 19 Louisville; No. 20 USC; No. 21 Iowa; No. 22 North Carolina; No. 23 Oregon; No. 24 Oklahoma State; No. 25 Florida.