UCLA Football: An early preview of the Washington Huskies

Apr 22, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Jake Browning (3) throws on the sidelines during the Spring Game at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Jake Browning (3) throws on the sidelines during the Spring Game at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports /

In arguably the toughest game of the season, UCLA Football will head to Seattle to take on the defending PAC-12 champion Washington Huskies. Go Joe Bruin previews the game.

After two mediocre seasons under head coach Chris Petersen, the Huskies broke out in a big way in 2016. U Dub finished the season with a 12-2 record, winning the Pac-12 and earning themselves the right to face off with Alabama in the College Football Playoff. The Huskies played the mighty Crimson Tide tight into the fourth quarter before eventually running out of gas. Despite the loss, that game proved the Huskies had arrived.

UCLA Football, unfortunately, has been trending in the opposite direction after finishing last year with a 4-8 record, by far the worst record in the Jim Mora tenure. This will be a big game for the Bruins, as a win against a stacked Huskies squad inside one of the toughest venues to play in College Football would undoubtably be the signature win in the Mora era and could help save his job.

Unfortunately, save USC, this may be the toughest game of the season for the Bruins to win. It’s going to take a herculean effort from the defense and some stellar offense for UCLA Football to pull the upset.

Related Story: Ranking UCLA's 2017 games from easiest to toughest

What: UCLA Bruins vs. Washington Huskies

Where: Husky Stadium, Seattle, Wa.

When: Saturday, October 28

2016 Record: 12-2 overall, 9-1 PAC-12

Washington faces three non-conference cupcakes before opening PAC-12 play with four very winnable games so it is likely that the Huskies will be 7-0 heading into their clash with the Bruins. If the Bruins can maintain their end of the bargain and only face a setback or two in the early going, this could be a very big game in the PAC-12.

Due to the PAC-12 schedules, the Bruins haven’t faced the Huskies since 2014, where the Brett Hundley led UCLA Football team took down Washington in Seattle. This season’s matchup should be much different.

Washington Offense:

There’s no way we can talk about Washington’s 2017 Offense without taking about Quarterback Jake Browning. Browning was fantastic as a Sophomore, throwing for 3,430 yards and 43 touchdowns to just nine interceptions.

The junior-to-be will certainly garner preseason Heisman buzz and is sure to give UCLA’s (and everyone else’s) secondary fits. Browning has good size at 6’2″, 209 lbs, and has elite intelligence and accuracy. If Browning improves, or even has a similar season to 2016, the Washington Offense will be just fine.

Though, the U Dub offense will be missing one of Browning’s favorite targets from 2016 in John Ross, who burst onto the scene in his junior season and became the ninth overall pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Ross, who had 1,150 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns in 2016, made waves when he broke Chris Johnson’s 40 yard dash record at the NFL combine by running it in a blazing 4.22 seconds.

A player who’s ready to take the leap and fill Ross’ absence will be Senior-to-be Wide Out Dante Pettis, who had a stellar season in 2016 finishing with 822 yards and 15 touchdowns. It will be interesting to see how Pettis improves as one of the lone threats and without Ross garnering double coverage.

The Huskies also return a two-headed monster of Running Backs in Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman. Gaskin, the lead back, is primed for a big season. The junior-to-be running back has amassed at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of his first two seasons in Seattle.

Coleman, on the other hand, was a little bit under the radar last season, but finished with impressive stats. The senior-to-be gained 852 yards on 114 carries (7.5 yards per carry) and had 7 touchdowns to go along with it. Gaskin and Coleman will be key to take the pressure off Browning’s arm, which will certainly be in use a lot in 2017.

The explosive Husky offense will certainly give the UCLA defense fits. If the secondary stifles Browning, Gaskin could be in for a big game and vice versa. The Bruins will need an otherworldly defensive effort to slow this team down in 2017.

Washington 2016 Offensive Stats

Total Offense: 456.9 (5th in the PAC-12)

Passing Offense: 258.8 (7th)

Rushing Offense: 198.1 (6th)

Scoring Offense: 41.8 (1st)

Washington Defense:

As scary as the Washington Offense was in 2016, the defense was even scarier. The Huskies were among the nations best defensive teams in 2016 and they were headlined by their secondary. The good news is that a lot of those players were selected in this years draft and won’t be donning the purple and gold next season.

U Dub loses three of their four starters in the secondary, which leaves the group looking vulnerable in 2017. Budda Baker, Sidney Jones and Kevin King all are gone which leaves sophomore-to-be Tyler Rapp as the only returning starter in the secondary.

The good news for Washington is that Rapp is due for a big sophomore campaign. He led the Huskies with four interceptions last year and looks like he could become an All-American safety before his time in Seattle is complete.

The U Dub front seven also loses a lot from 2016. Starting pass rushers Psalm Wooching and Joe Mathis graduated leaving Washington without their top two sack leaders from a year ago. Defensive Lineman Vita Vea returns for his junior campaign and figures to be a big part of the 2017 defense after being third on the team in sacks a season ago with five. Vea along with others will have to fill the pass rushing hole left by the departures of Wooching and Mathis.

The only place where Washington will see some consistency from 2016 to 2017 is in their linebacker corps. Three starters from last season return, led by Azeem Victor, who returns for his senior campaign after missing the end of last season with a broken leg. The strong suit of the Husky D will be the linebackers in 2017.

Rosen is going to have to put up big numbers on the inexperienced U Dub secondary, though, with the way they have recruited defensively, it is not unlikely that their next stud in the secondary is ready to burst on the scene in 2017. For our and the rest of the PAC-12’s sake, lets hope not.

Washington 2016 Defensive Stats

Total Defense: 316.9 (1st in the PAC-12)

Passing Defense: 182.9 (1st)

Rushing Defense: 133.9 (2nd)

Scoring Defense: 17.7 (1st)

Next: 100 things to look for with UCLA Football in 2017

Final Analysis

If the Huskies defense is anywhere near as good as last year this is going to be a rough outing for the Bruins. That’s a big “if” though with all of Washington’s losses on the defensive side of the ball. Rosen has the chance to put up big numbers against yet another inexperienced secondary, but he will likely have to if the Bruins are going to stun Jake Browning and the Huskies.