Early Las Vegas predictions from oddsmakers in Las Vegas projects Washington to finish with four wins in 2015, half their total from a season ago (8-6). Much of this has to do with the large turnover on the Huskies roster, specifically on defense, coupled with uncertainty at the quarterback position. The Huskies are credited with projected wins over Sacramento State, Cal, Oregon State and rival Washington State in the upcoming season. Most in the Dawg Pound believe the team will finish with more than four victories this season, but which game(s) did Vegas miss? We look at some of the biggest upset possibilities in Day 9 of the 30 day countdown.
Option #1- @ Boise State (Sept 4)
How could this game not make the list? While the thought of Washington upsetting Boise State may seem a bit pie in the sky, the possibility of a surprise in Chris Petersen's return to Boise to open the season is still fun to imagine. Coming off a 12-2 mark with a Fiesta Bowl victory over Arizona in 2014, the Broncos are projected to perhaps finish even better this season, with a low rumble of an undefeated season making its way through Boise. With such a tall order awaiting them to begin the season, how can the Huskies hope to upset the Broncos? Lets look at some potential Boise State weaknesses.
Boise State's most glaring question entering the season is how they will replace the production of quarterback Grant Hedrick and running back Jay Ajayi, a duo which accounted for 89% of the team's yards on offense, and 92% of their offensive touchdowns last season. Sophomore Ryan Finley played sparsely last season, completing 12 passes for a pair of touchdowns and an interception over parts of five games. Fellow sophomore Jeremy McNichols will likely lead a committee of running backs tasked with replacing the production of Ajayi, who finished with 1,823 rushing yards, 535 receiving yards and 32 total touchdowns in 2014.
If the Huskies new look defense can step up to make life difficult for Finley behind center and contain the Broncos ground game, this contest can be closer than projected. In the end the Broncos might be too much for these young Huskies, but isn't it fun to imagine Chris Petersen returning to Boise to lead the Dawgs to their biggest upset in recent memory?
Option #2- @ USC (October 8)
Should USC head coach Steve Sarkisian survive the mounting firestorm over his recent intoxicated, profanity laden rant, his Trojans will host the Huskies, his former school, on the second Thursday of October. Sark finished with a 34-29 record over five seasons at the helm of Washington before returning to USC for the 2014 season. He was also on the Washington sidelines for the last Huskies win over the Trojans, a 32-31 victory in 2010, also at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
On paper the Trojans have a clear advantage over the 2015 installment of the Huskies. They are lead on offense by a largely underrated quarterback, Cody Kessler, and boast a loaded defensive unit, despite losing Leonard Williams and Hayes Pullard. What could make this an interesting contest and a potential surprise are intangibles. Can enough Huskies, specifically upperclassmen, up their game against their former coach? What impact will playing on Thursday have on the game? There is an undeniable trend, especially in the Pac 12, of strange plays and upsets on Thursday night games. If those intangibles come to pass, and USC overlooks the Huskies with a trip to Notre Dame the following week, an upset could be brewing.
Option #3- @ Stanford (October 24)
Two weeks after their trip to Southern California the Huskies will return to the Golden State to battle the Stanford Cardinal in Palo Alto. Stanford has been a machine for the last half decade, churning out double-digit wins in every season beginning in 2010, a streak that came to an end last season with a 8-5 record in head coach David Shaw's fourth season leading the Cardinal. Still, Stanford had big wins in 2014, including a 20-13 win over the Huskies, an upset of the UCLA Bruins, and a win in the Foster Farms Bowl over Maryland.
David Shaw is still an underrated coach, despite passing interest from NFL teams, and has Stanford in position to be a darkhorse contender for the Pac 12 crown again in 2015, especially with quarterback Kevin Hogan recovered from injury. Hogan will lead a dynamic passing attack that will be hard for teams to contain, including the Huskies solid secondary. Like Washington, one of the biggest questions for Stanford will be a rebuilding defense, having to replace several departing starters. If the Huskies can find their footing on the passing game, a suspect defensive for Stanford could open the door for an upset in this one.
Verdict- @ Stanford (October 24)
A victory in Petersen's return to Boise would be great, but the Huskies probably don't have the fire power to hang with the Broncos. A Thursday night surprise against USC feels like a possibility, but the Huskies biggest upset will come in October, on the road against Stanford. Stanford lost twice at home in 2014, including an upset by Utah, and the possibility of an underrated Husky team doing the same feels real, especially with a questionable Cardinal defense. A victory over Stanford would be the Huskies biggest in 2015, but smaller upsets over both Utah and Utah State are also possible.
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