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Five Big Questions for the Washington Huskies’ 2019 Season

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Does Jacob Eason’s raw skill make UW a team that can finally win a big-time game?

Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The following is being posted to the SB Nation Season Previews group. Therefore, the information included is for a general audience who wants to know more about the Huskies.

Who is your most important player on offense this season?

It’s the quarterback, and coach Chris Petersen is not telling us who is going to be the starter. It may be the same situation as 2015 when no starter was announced and fans had to rely on pre-game tweets from the media to figure out that Jake Browning was going to be under center.

All the smart money is on Georgia transfer Jacob Eason. The junior sat out last season per transfer rules, and he brings both NFL stature and arm skill, two things his predecessor Browning lacked.

Jacob Eason was 8-5 as the starter for Georgia during his true freshman season.

Petersen’s offenses have always used the passing game to set up the run, and Eason will need to take care of the football and get his team into the best play on every down, things Browning did (mostly) very well during his four years as the starter.

There is a new level of excitement with Eason taking over. Browning was considered good enough to beat the beatable teams, but didn’t have the ability to raise the Huskies’ offense to that of a national power. There is no doubt Eason has the look and arm of a big time threat, but can he recognize what the defense is doing and make the adjustments at the line of scrimmage that Petersen requires in his offense?

Who is your most important player on defense this season?

The Huskies lose Morris Trophy (outstanding lineman in the Pac-12) winner Greg Gaines as well as another solid defensive tackle in Jaylen Johnson. There are some excellent young players ready to step into the defensive line rotation, but UW is looking to a veteran who is changing positions to solidify things up front.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 29 BYU at Washington
Benning Potoa’e made 41 tackles a year ago.

Benning Potoa’e was one of the biggest prizes of the 2015 recruiting class, and after a redshirt season fans were expecting him to step in and be a dominant defensive lineman. Well, Potoa’e did play in 13 games as a redshirt freshman, but he played outside as a rush end/outside linebacker. At 270 lbs, that made him one of the biggest linebackers in the entire country.

During his career, Potoa’e has played a ton of snaps for the Huskies, but he has never realized the potential that scouts and fans feel he is capable of attaining. This season, Potoa’e is up to nearly 290 lbs and has officially made the move inside to defensive line. It remains to be seen how he is ultimately used, but his versatility makes him a natural fit for many of the unique looks the Huskies give with their defensive line.

What should be the biggest change between last year and this year?

If you are a Husky fan, you are hoping that 2019 marks the return of the explosive play. The team was among the worst in the Pac-12 conference a year ago in plays over 30 yards by the offense.

NCAA Football: Colorado at Washington
Junior Salvon Ahmed has averaged 6.04 yards per carry during his first two seasons at UW.

There’s a new starting quarterback and new starting running back. Both Eason (assuming it’s him) and running back Salvon Ahmed are more explosive in nature than their predecessors, but Browning and Myles Gaskin leave Washington as the all time leaders in passing and rushing, respectively. Gaskin was steady, but he was also able to break a lot of big runs during his career. Ahmed is faster with more potential to hit the home run, and getting the ball to him any way possible will improve UW’s chances to score quickly.

Eason has four returning senior wide receivers and a deep tight end pool to work with, and with new receivers coach Junior Adams in the fold, the hope is that the pass-catching group can be better than a year ago. They were very inconsistent in 2018.

What is the most important game on this schedule, and why?

According to this article posted during our 30 day countdown to football, 91% of our readers believe the Oregon game at Husky Stadium on October 19 is the most “must win” of any game on the Huskies’ schedule.

Oregon is the media pick to win the Pac-12 North, and begins the season ranked ahead of UW in the AP Top 25 poll. This game is huge for a number of reasons, including the fact that the two fanbases basically hate one another. UW ended a streak of 12 consecutive losses to Oregon with a 70-21 thumping in 2016. But after beating the Ducks again (38-3) in 2017, the Huskies’ streak was halted at two last year with an overtime loss at Oregon.

This game could decide the Pac-12 North winner, and always decides how well many Husky fans sleep during the following weeks.

What is your prediction for W/L record and postseason destination?

I like the Huskies to win all three of their non-conference games, including what will be a difficult trip to Provo, UT to face BYU in week four. For the conference season, there’s a lot of parity in the Pac-12. Losing less than two games though seems unlikely.

10-2 is a realistic record for this team, with a chance to notch another win in the Pac-12 Championship Game. 11-2 with a Pac-12 title most likely puts the Huskies just out of the playoff conversation, and will send them to the Rose Bowl for a second consecutive season.

A trip to Pasadena would mark four straight NY6 bowl appearances for Petersen’s Huskies. That’s a hell of an accomplishment, but fans want more. They want to see UW win one of these marquee matchups against another national power. That’s the goal in 2019.