CHRISTIAN CAPLE

What’s UW Huskies’ toughest game? Ranking remaining schedule

Oct 5, 2023, 2:16 PM

UW Huskies Kalen DeBoer...

UW Huskies head coach Kalen DeBoer stands with QB Michael Penix Jr. on Sept. 30, 2023. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Anyone could have told you that November would be the most difficult sustained portion of the No. 7 UW Huskies’ 2023 football schedule, and that its Oct. 14 date against the Oregon Ducks could go a long way toward determining the conference championship.

Caple: Takeaways from No. 7 UW Huskies’ 31-24 win over Arizona

There are things about the unbeaten Huskies and their remaining opponents, though, that we didn’t know before the season began.

As UW sits at home on a bye this weekend, let’s examine what the Huskies have left, ranking their seven remaining opponents from least to most problematic, matchup-wise.

7. at Stanford, Oct. 28

Aside from being on the road — and being one week prior to a big game at USC — there should be few challenges for the Huskies in this one. The Cardinal are winless in Pac-12 play, lost to Sacramento State earlier this season, and appear destined for a double-digit loss total.

6. vs. Arizona State, Oct. 21

This is a candidate for UW’s easiest remaining game, too, but we’ve seen more progress from head coach Kenny Dillingham’s team than we have from Stanford. Plus, ASU has a running back (Cam Skattebo) and a few pass-catchers (Elijhah Badger, Jalin Conyers and Xavier Guillory) who could give the Huskies’ secondary at least a little trouble, even if an easy victory is expected.

5. at Oregon State, Nov. 18

The Beavers gave UW everything it could handle in Seattle last season, taking the Huskies down to the wire in an eventual 24-21 Washington victory played amid strong winds and rain. OSU might not be quite as nasty defensively as it was a year ago, but the Beavers did just hold Utah to a single touchdown, and the Huskies will have their hands full trying to corral OSU tailback Damien Martinez.

4. vs. Washington State, Nov. 25

The Huskies proved last season that even against a solid WSU defense, Michael Penix Jr. and UW’s offense were capable of putting up huge numbers fueled by explosive plays. Have the Cougars improved enough on that side of the ball to limit those long passes? They’ve certainly improved offensively, with quarterback Cam Ward and new offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle off to an encouraging start.

3. vs. Utah, Nov. 11

Who knows when quarterback Cam Rising might return from injury, and how impactful he might be when he does. Regardless, the Utes have the best defense in the conference, and their pass rush and secondary present an interesting challenge for the Huskies. Much can change between then and now, and it helps that UW is playing at home. But this won’t be an easy out, regardless of how limited the Utes’ offense might be.

2. at USC, Nov. 4

No doubt this game would occupy the No. 1 spot if the Trojans looked better defensively. It’s still going to be a tremendous challenge, considering uber-talented QB Caleb Williams and his deep squad of talented receivers. But Penix and Co. should have plenty of chances to keep up with their own explosive offense. The first team to get a stop could be the winner.

1. vs. Oregon, Oct. 14

UW Huskies coach Kalen DeBoer might tell you that of course this is the most important game, because it’s the next one. But that’s not why I’ve ranked it No. 1. It’s because the Ducks possess a more ideal blend of talent and balance — i.e. they can score a bunch of points and, it appears, have improved defensively — than any other team the Huskies will face the rest of the season. Remember that even in victory last season in Eugene, UW never really did slow Oregon’s running game. The Ducks aren’t quite as potent in that department this year, but they’re still good, and Bo Nix is far and away the best quarterback the Huskies will face in the first half of their schedule.

This column from UW Huskies football insider Christian Caple is exclusive to Seattle Sports. Subscribe to OnMontlake.com for full access to Caple’s in-depth Husky coverage.

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