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Photo Credit - Steve Cheng, Bruin Report Online via Flickr

The Washington Huskies enter their final season in the Pac-12 with high hopes of winning what could be the final Pac-12 championship ever. The Huskies are coming off an 11-2 season that ended with an Alamo Bowl win over Texas, 27-20.

Star quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. is on everyone’s preseason Heisman Trophy list. The senior gunslinger finished 2022 with 4,641 yards passing with 31 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. The wide receiver room in Seattle is one of the top two in the country with juniors Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan and sophomore Ja’Lynn Polk. The trio combined for 2,937 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2022.

The Washington defense was leaky at times in 2022, giving up over 400 yards five times. Eight starters return on that unit, but they lose two of their top three tacklers. Head coach Kalen Deboer hit the transfer portal to plug some holes on the defense, which should be an improvement over 2022.

Game-by-game predictions for the Washington Huskies 2023 season.

Week 1 September 2 - Home

Opponent – Boise State

Prediction – Win 1-0

The Broncos are led by 2022 Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year, quarterback Taylen Green. The sophomore is a dual threat quarterback who finished 2022 with 2,042 passing yards, 644 rushing yards and 24 total touchdowns. However, Boise State loses four of their top five tacklers, their leader in interceptions and only returns five starters on defense. With Washington’s lethal passing attack Boise State’s undermanned defense will be exposed.

Week 2 September 9 - Home

Opponent – Tulsa

Prediction – Win 2-0

AAC opponent who is replacing their head coach. The Golden Hurricane only return nine starters combined. One of those starters is sophomore quarterback Braylon Braxton, who was convinced to withdraw from the transfer portal and stay at Tulsa. This game will not be close.

Week 3 September 16 at East Lansing, MI

Opponent – Michigan State

Prediction – Win 3-0

Although this is a road game, Michigan State lost way too much production on offense to go punch for punch with the Huskies. On top of that, the Michigan State defense is pitiful! The Spartans gave up 417 yards per game and 27.4 points per game in 2022. They lose four of their top five tacklers on a defense that only produced 12 turnovers. By contrast, last season’s Spartan quarterback, Payton Thorne, threw 11 interceptions himself! Thorne transferred to Auburn and the slated starter, sophomore Noah Kim, has only thrown for 174 yards in three seasons as a backup. Washington will pull away in the second half for a big win in what will be a Big Ten Conference game starting in 2024.

Week 4 September 23 - Home

Opponent – California

Prediction – Win 4-0

The Bears are only 10-18 in the last three seasons. Leading rusher, sophomore Jaydn Ott, is back after posting 943 rushing yards in his true freshman season. While Cal is heavily out-gunned, Justin Wilcox coached teams are tough, only losing the last two games against Washington by a touchdown each.

Week 5 September 30 at Tucson, AZ

Opponent – Arizona

Prediction – Win 5-0

Junior quarterback Jayden de Laura is a rising star. Against the Huskies in 2022 he completed 73.5% of his passes for 400 yards and four touchdowns in a losing effort. The Wildcats only return three starters from a defense who gave up 468 yards and 36.5 points per game. Head coach Jedd Fisch brought in a number of transfer portal players, but it will not be enough to overcome the talent deficiency.

Week 6 October 7 BYE WEEK

Week 7 October 14 - Home

Opponent – Oregon

Prediction – Win 6-0

The most recent defections to the Big Ten, these are two of the top teams in a LOADED Pac-12 Conference. Both teams are coming off a bye week and have high powered offenses led by Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterbacks, Michael Penix Jr. for Washington and Bo Nix for Oregon. The 2022 game saw 10 lead changes and 1,114 combined yards. Expect a similar game in 2023 with the home team coming out on top. With conference realignment ruining a lot of rivalries in college football I’m glad this rivalry will continue, albeit in a different conference.

Week 8 October 21 - Home

Opponent – Arizona State

Prediction – Win 7-0

First year Sun Devils head coach Kenny Dillingham is familiar with Washington as he was the Oregon offensive coordinator in 2022. Arizona State only returns five starters on a bad defense that gave up 422 yards and 31.4 points per game. Dillingham boosted the secondary with transfers Xavion Alford from USC and Shamari Simmons and Demetries Ford from Austin Peay. However, Washington has too many weapons on offense for the Sun Devils. This will be a blowout, over early in the third quarter.

Week 9 October 28 at Palo Alto, CA

Opponent – Stanford

Prediction – Win 8-0

Other than running back E.J. Smith, son of Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith, the Cardinal do not have much going for them. New head coach Troy Taylor has a lot of work to do to rebuild the Stanford program. Add to that the fact that the Pac-12 Conference may very well no longer exist starting in 2024, that is not a good building block to sell to recruits. Another conference blowout win for the Huskies.

Week 10 November 4 at Los Angeles, CA

Opponent – USC

Prediction – Loss 8-1

The first meeting between these teams since 2019 will be the last as Pac-12 foes. This should be another shootout as USC boasts one of the most potent offensive attacks in the country with head coach Lincoln Riley’s version of the Air Raid. The Trojans are led by reigning Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Caleb Williams, who threw for 4,537 yards, 42 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 2022. USC also returns three of their top four receivers. The USC defense was terrible in 2022, giving up 424 yards and 29.2 points per game. However, they are an opportunistic bunch, creating 28 turnovers including 17 interceptions. This has the makings of a “last team with the ball wins” type of game. And I think that team will be USC.

Week 11 November 11 - Home

Opponent – Utah

Prediction – Win 9-1

Heading into his 19th season in Utah, Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham is the second longest tenured head coach at the same school. Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz is first. Star quarterback Cameron Rising threw for 3,034 yards, rushed for 532 yards and had 26 total touchdowns in 2022. The tough Utah defense, the calling card for Coach Whittingham that returns nine starters from 2022, will not be able to keep Penix and company in check. Look for a late touchdown by the Huskies to solidify the win by double digits.

Week 12 November 18 at Corvallis, OR

Opponent – Oregon State

Prediction – Win 10-1

This may be the Beavers final home game as a member of the Pac-12 Conference. Unfortunately for the Oregon State faithful, it will also be another double-digit win by the Huskies. The Beavers offense is a clock controlling rushing attack that will try to keep the Washington offense on the sidelines. Head coach Jonathan Smith brought in Clemson transfer quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, who feels he fits better in Smith’s pro-style offense. The Beavers defense, however, only returns five starters while losing five of the top seven tacklers. Look for Washington to blow this game open in the second half.

Week 13 November 25 - Home

Opponent – Washington State

Prediction – Win 11-1

The final Apple Cup as members of the Pac-12, and it pains me to write that! To think of all of the coaches and players who played in this game as members of the Pac-10/12. Coaches like Rick Neuheisel, Steve Sarkesian and Chris Petersen for Washington. Dennis Erickson, Mike Price and Mike Leach for Washington State. It amazes me that Leach was 1-7 all time in the Apple Cup. Players like Warren Moon, Brock Huard and Marques Tuiasosopo for Washington. Ryan Leaf, Drew Bledsoe and Gardner Minshew for Washington State. Starting in 2024 the Apple Cup may no longer be played annually. A crime! While I believe anything can happen in a rivalry game, the 2023 version of the Apple Cup will be another blowout for the Washington Huskies. Washington State junior quarterback Cameron Ward is a stud who put up 3,231 passing yards, 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions. But the Cougars defense is atrocious, returning five starters from a group that yielded 402 yards and 22.9 points per game. The Huskies send their rivals from Pullman back home with the spanking of all spankings in the final Apple Cup as conference foes.

As I’ve mentioned multiple times, this is the last season that the Washington Huskies will be a member of the Pac-12 Conference. While they will make the move to the Big Ten with USC, UCLA and Oregon, they will lose some games the Huskies have played for decades, including the Apple Cup against Washington State. That said, the Huskies will enjoy a great final Pac-12 season, going 11-1 and playing in the Pac 12 championship. The Big Ten is getting a monster of a program in 2024 in the form of the Washington Huskies.


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