UW HUSKIES

No. 10 UW Huskies begin last year in Pac-12 as contender for conference title

Aug 17, 2023, 2:25 PM

UW Huskies Michael Penix Jr....

UW Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. throws during the Apple Cup against WSU on Nov. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

(AP Photo/Young Kwak)

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington’s first season with both coach Kalen DeBoer and quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was a magical ride that put the UW Huskies back on the national stage.

UW Huskies come in at 10 in AP preseason top-25 poll

Their second season comes with a straightforward goal — win the Pac-12 one last time before Washington takes up residence in the Big Ten.

“That would be big. That would definitely be something that would be remembered for a long time,” Penix said. “It’s just a blessing to be here. This conference is amazing.”

One of the original members of the Pacific Coast Conference more than a century ago, the 10th-ranked UW Huskies will begin their final season as part of the premier conference on the West Coast with a legitimate chance at a conference title. If the defense can show significant improvement from last season, the Huskies could find themselves in the College Football Playoff conversation.

It starts with Penix, who should be in the Heisman Trophy discussion from the start of the season after returning for a second year with the Huskies. Penix threw for 4,641 yards and 31 touchdowns last season as Washington went 11-2 and capped its season with a win over Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Combined with one of the deepest wide receiver groups in the country, led by Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan, there’s the chance Penix could again put up eye-popping numbers. Washington’s offense averaged nearly 40 points per game last season.

“We know that (Penix’s) got the reads. He’s understood the offense now because it’s been really the same system since 2019 when he was at Indiana and was introduced to it at that time,” DeBoer said. “The reads, the progressions, the checks, it changes from week to week and the game plan, so forth. He understands it inside and out. Now it’s just a matter of him leading.”

Whether Washington can become a playoff contender will depend on its defense getting more stops and giving up less points. The UW Huskies feature two of the best edge rushers in the conference in Bralen Trice and Zion Tupuola-Fetui and Oklahoma State transfer Jabbar Muhammad should instantly help the secondary.

HEISMAN HOPES

Washington started its Heisman campaign last season for Penix too late to gain any traction and he finished eighth in the voting. The school has never had a Heisman winner but believes Penix has the chance at a season worthy of consideration.

He should get early opportunities to put up big numbers, but it’ll be what Penix does later in the year in marquee games against Oregon, USC and Utah that’ll likely determine the seriousness of his candidacy.

Having his top pass catchers back in Odunze, McMillan and Ja’Lynn Polk will help. Also helping will be an improved run game that should benefit from the arrival of Mississippi State transfer Dillon Johnson.

DEFENSIVE FRONT

The strength of Washington’s defense should be up front with Trice and Tupuola-Fetui providing pressure off the edge and Faatui Tuitele and Tuli Letuligasenoa on the interior. Trice was a preseason all-Pac-12 selection and led Washington with nine sacks last season.

But the Huskies allowed 30 or more points to their opponents five times in the final eight regular season games last season.

SECONDARY CONCERN

The Huskies got a boost with the addition of Muhammad after he appeared in 12 games last season and had 48 tackles for Oklahoma State. The rest of Washington’s secondary is a bit of a question. Elijah Jackson will likely be the other cornerback, with Asa Turner, Dominique Hampton and Mishael Powell filling the other spots in the secondary. All have starting experience but only Turner is returning as a starter at the same position as last year after some major offseason shuffling.

FINAL SEASON

Washington opens the season hosting Mountain West favorite Boise State and Tulsa before its big nonconference matchup at Michigan State – a school that’ll be a conference opponent starting in 2024. The big challenge for the Huskies arrives at midseason when No. 15 Oregon pays a visit on Oct. 14 and November is a brutal run that starts on the road at No. 6 USC, followed by No. 14 Utah at home, at No. 18 Oregon State and the final Apple Cup against Washington State as conference opponents.

UW Huskies camp thoughts: Rome Odunze and other UW ‘freaks’

UW Huskies

UW Huskies...

Christian Caple

Caple: Thoughts on Ana Mari Cauce, Big Ten and UW’s athletic budget

On Montlake's Christian Caple delves into three interesting topics surrounding the UW Huskies as they near their Big Ten debut.

12 hours ago

UW Huskies helmet...

Christian Caple

UW transfer Logan Sagapolu ‘grateful’ for new start, position

Incoming UW Huskies transfer Logan Sagapolu is ready to make the transition from defensive line to offensive line in Seattle.

2 days ago

Pac-12 UW Huskies Jadelyn Allchin...

Cliff Brunt

Dominant Pac-12 softball nears end with realignment set to scatter programs

Current members of the Pac-12 have dominated softball for most of its existence. Those programs will spread out next year.

12 days ago

Pac-12 UW Huskies Oregon...

Christian Caple

Caple: The toughest game for each Pac-12 team as they enter new leagues

The 2024 college football season will find 10 of the former Pac-12 members playing in three different conferences.

13 days ago

UW Huskies Carson Bruener...

Christian Caple

Caple: Revisiting UW Huskies’ 2020 recruiting class, of which only 5 remain

Only five of the UW Huskies’ 23 signees from 2020 remain on the roster, as a group that ranked 16th nationally has become the first class at UW truly affected by the advent of the transfer portal.

15 days ago

Apple Cup logo UW Huskies WSU Cougars...

Brent Stecker

The ‘TV’ home for Apple Cup is set, may create some controversy

The TV broadcast of the 2024 Apple Cup from Lumen Field between the UW Huskies and WSU Cougars won't technically be on a TV station.

16 days ago

No. 10 UW Huskies begin last year in Pac-12 as contender for conference title