On Thursday media covering the Pac-12 voted the Huskies to finish second behind preseason title favorite Stanford in the Pac-12 North Division. Athlon’s preseason ranking has the Huskies 11th in the Football Bowl Subdivision. ESPN puts them at No. 17, The Sporting News No. 20. ESPN analyst Brad Edwards has them in the four-team College Football Playoff.
Twenty-five years since the school’s last national championship, a team that barely made a bowl in 2015 is being projected on paper to do much, much more.
“It irritates the heck out of me, you know?” Petersen says. “It just always does. You know, we’re an average team. I mean, that’s really how I look at it.”
Petersen won more than 88% of his games as Boise State’s coach, but by the numbers Washington has just been slightly above average with Petersen in charge, going 15-12 in two seasons. However, the Huskies coaching staff has recruited well and has perhaps the nation’s best young backfield combination in Browning and running back Myles Gaskin. Their offense came alive late in 2015 as they won their final three games, scoring at least 44 points in each.
Meanwhile, while relying on an alternative tackling method, its defense led the Pac-12 in fewest yards allowed per play and per game last season and has one of the best defensive backfields in the FBS.
“There’s that optimism, which is great,” Petersen says. “We really like our guys, but we have a long way to go for us to take that next step. That’s the one thing I’ve learned. It’s like, you think you’re close? Not so fast.
“I mean, it takes a lot of work and skill to be able to get over that hump, to win and win really big and consistently in this league.”
The Pac-12 North has been the second-strongest division in the FBS (behind the Southeastern Conference West) for the last two seasons, according to Jeff Sagarin’s ratings, partly based on the presence of Oregon and Stanford. Since 2009, those two teams have won an average of 10.9 games a season, all seven league titles and the last two Rose Bowls.
But both teams will have a new, yet-to-be-determined starter at quarterback, which might be as big a reason as any Washington is