All things considered, our Huskies got a lucky schedule draw in 2022. Most of the offseason hype has justifiably been focused on Lincoln Riley’s retooled USC offense and a Utah team that has found a QB in Cam Rising that can elevate its trademark ground-and-pound rushing attack. However, while UW avoids both Pac-12 South teams on our conference schedule rotation this year, it doesn’t mean our defense will have a cake walk through the fall schedule.
Inge & Morrell’s defense will get tested through out the year by talented offenses with experienced returnees at key spots and savvy coaches with long records of explosive offenses.
Michigan State Spartans
Key Personnel Changes: Kenneth Walker III, RB (NFL), Jarek Broussard (From Colorado), Jalen Berger (From Wisconsin)
Key 2021 Stats: 31.8 Points/Game (39th nationally), Walker accounted for 72% of team rushing yards & 38% of TDs from scrimmage
Michigan State is the one game on the schedule that fans have circled on the calendar as our chance to prove 2021 was an anomaly. Mel Tucker’s team had a breakout season in 2021, finishing the season ranked 9th in the country on the back of Kenneth Walker III’s Doak Walker Award-winning season. The Spartans caught lightning in a bottle with the Wake Forest transfer, and they hope to recapture their Transfer Portal success with Jarek Broussard and Jalen Berger in 2022. Husky fans should be familiar with Broussard as he was a key member of Colorado’s backfield rotation over the last two seasons and was a starter in the Buffaloes’ win over UW last season. He has a concerning injury history, but when healthy, he is one of the more explosive backs to have hit the Portal in the last cycle.
Jalen Berger is the other half of Tucker’s plan to replace Walker’s outsized production within the Spartan offense. The Wisconsin transfer was a top 150 recruit in the 2020 recruiting cycle, but after Braellon Allen’s breakout season and other personnel moves, the Badgers parted ways with Berger. Berger has a shorter resume than Broussard, but he has the talent and pedigree to step into a sizable role within the Spartan backfield.
In the passing game, QB Payton Thorne and WR Jayden Reed return as the Spartans’ go-to aerial connection. Thorne brings experience and efficiency to the QB position having started all 13 games last year and a 3232 yard/27 TD/10 INT stat line. The Spartans hope is that Thorne and Reed (a 1000-yard WR last season) can take the next step this season to take pressure off of Broussard, Berger, and a reloaded OL, but if Tucker hits on as many transfers as he did last season, the Spartans could be a Big Ten contender once again in 2022.
Key Personnel Changes: Sean Rhyan (NFL) Brittain Brown (NFL), Kyle Philips (NFL), Greg Dulcich (NFL), Titus Mokiao-Atimalala (From UCF), Jake Bobo (From Duke)
Key 2021 Stats: 36.5 Points/Game (13th nationally), DTR & Charbonnet return as starters in a backfield that accounted for 78% of team offensive yards and 67% of team rushing yards
After steady progress throughout the Chip Kelly tenure in LA, 2022 could be the Bruins’ break out season. Despite NFL departures across the offense, the returning backfield duo of Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Zach Charbonnet should provide enough stability for the offense to take the next step with younger talent and key transfers at the skill positions. UCF WR transfer Titus Mokiao-Atimalala is being tabbed as UCLA’s replacement for Kyle Philips, and Duke WR transfer Jake Bobo could step into Greg Dulcich’s flex TE/big-slot receiving role. I was a big fan of Mokiao-Atimalala when he was coming out of HS, and UW was recruiting him as a DB, so the athleticism is there for him to make an immediate impact at the P5 level.
The biggest question for UCLA will be their play at the LOS. Despite less-than-stellar recruiting in the trenches, the Bruin offensive line has consistently punched above their weight with the help of stability in their line up, experience, athleticism, and Kelly’s option-heavy run schemes. Center Duke Clemens and OG Atonio Mafi provide a strong core to the OL group, and transfer OT Raiqwon O’Neal should shore up the edge of the blocking front that lost both OTs this offseason. If this group can build chemistry quickly, we could see the version of the Bruins that bullied USC 62-33 to close out the 2021 regular season.
Key Personnel Changes: Travis Dye (To USC), Anthony Brown (NFL), CJ Verdell (NFL), Devon Williams (NFL), Bo Nix (From Auburn)
Key 2021 Stats: 31.4 Points/Game (42nd nationally), Oregon returns a projected starting OL a combined 126 starts of experience
For the Ducks 2022 offense, its all about potential at the skill positions and a bruising front 5. After Mario Cristobal’s departure to Miami, many of Oregon’s starters considered their next options, and the majority of Oregon’s statistical leaders decided to move on from the program. Despite few returning starters at the skill positions, the Cristobal leaves new HC Dan Lanning and new OC Kenny Dillingham with a well-stocked roster, and the open spots leave the door wide open for Cristobal’s heralded recruits to take the next step.
The biggest beneficiary could be Byron Cardwell, who stepped up mid-season to take over the RB2 role behind now-departed RB1 Travis Dye. Running behind a big, physical, and experienced OL that saw few changes, Cardwell could make a run at All-Conference honors this season. A big season from him would also take pressure off of whoever succeeds Anthony Brown at QB. Starting QBs during Cristobal’s tenure haven’t always played up to their talent level, but the QB room was always stacked with talent. Auburn transfer Bo Nix and former top-50 recruit Ty Thompson will fight for the starting job, with all signs pointing towards Nix being in the lead. Nix was a multi-year starter at Auburn, and his history with OC Kenny Dillingham should help him rein in his erratic play over the years.
The Ducks offense has a lot of unanswered questions, but the OL and talented backfield should set the floor pretty high for their offense going into 2022.
Which opponent will have the best offense the Huskies will face this season?
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