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Ranking Utah’s 2017 Football Schedule: No. 2 Washington

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NCAA Football: Washington at Utah Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Utah at Washington

Saturday, Nov. 18

Seattle, Wash.

The Washington Huskies were the class of the Pac-12 last season, winning the conference and playing in the College Football Playoff. They were led by a dominant defense and Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year quarterback Jake Browning. They finished the season 12-2, only falling to USC in the regular season and Alabama in the College Football Playoff. They won at Utah last season 31-24 with ESPN College Gameday in town

UW will come into the game with an extra day of rest because their game the previous week falls on a Friday night. However, it is at Stanford, which should prove to be a tough physical matchup against the Cardinal. Coming off a game against a smash mouth football team like Stanford then facing another tough team like Utah could be challenging for the Huskies. It is also late in the season, so UW’s depth could be tested.

Utah will have faced Washington State at home the week prior to playing the Huskies. Despite being from the same state, these two teams have very different styles. Utah will have to go from preparing for Wazzu’s air raid offense one week to UW’s more pro-style attack the next. The Pac-12 features a variety of different offenses, so this is nothing new, but it could present a challenge especially with how talented each team’s offense figures to be in 2017.

UW returns a lot of talent in 2017 and should be a preseason top 15 team. They get seven offensive starters back and six on defense. Getting a proven talent at quarterback back is always a boost for a team, so returning Browning is a big for the 2017 offense. One of his top targets from last season was wide receiver Dante Pettis, who had the punt return touchdown that sealed UW’s victory at Utah last season, who will return this season and will likely have more production after hauling in over 800 yards receiving last year and 15 touchdown catches. Running back Myles Gaskin is back for his junior season after topping 1,300 yards as both a freshman and sophomore. UW returns three starters on the offensive line, led by left tackle Trey Adams. Browning, Gaskin, and Adams were all first-team All-Pac-12 last season. On defense, they return defensive linemen Vita Vea and Greg Gaines. They get Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierra back at linebacker. In the secondary, they return reigning Freshman Defensive Player of the Year Taylor Rapp.

While the Huskies welcome back a lot of talent in 2017, they also lost a lot. Their secondary will be a young group after losing Kevin King, Budda Baker, and Sidney Jones to the 2017 NFL Draft. Washington has recruited well at defensive back, but they will be breaking in a lot of new faces in the secondary. Their pass rush also took a hit with losses of defensive tackle Elijah Qualls, pass rush specialist Joe Mathis, and linebacker Psalm Wooching. There is talent in the front seven, but the pass rush for UW certainly was not as potent after Mathis was lost to injury last season. These defensive losses are certainly important, but the biggest loss is off the offense: wide receiver John Ross. Ross was a top 10 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. He was a big play machine for the Huskies last season, hauling in 81 passes for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns. UW also lost both starting guards, including first-team All-Pac-12 guard Jake Eldrenkamp.

Head coach Chris Petersen is an excellent coach and will have the new players ready to step in and play this year. The 2017 Huskies may not accomplish everything the 2016 team did, but they will still be a very talented team. Heading into Husky Stadium in November and coming out with a W will not be easy for the Utes. They have only beaten Washington once in 10 tries, but it was in Seattle in 2015. Vegas does not give the Utes much of a chance in this game with the line opening at UW favored by 21. This one does not look like a game Utah is likely to win.

Toughest Games in 2017 Countdown

No. 12 North Dakota

No. 11 San Jose State

No. 10 Arizona

No. 9 Arizona State

No. 8 BYU

No. 7 Colorado

No. 6 UCLA

No. 5 Oregon

No. 4 Washington State

No. 3 Stanford