No. 6: Washington. Yes, the Huskies were much more respectable last season. Yes, Jake Locker is one of the most dynamic and best quarterbacks in the country.
But those who are picking Washington to finish in the upper half of the Pac-10 and even in the preseason rankings may be jumping the gun just a bit.
There was only one way to go but up after the Huskies’ dreadful 0-10 season in 2008. New coach Steve Sarkisian led Washington to a 5-7 record last year, and he deserves kudos for such a quick improvement.
But taking that next step will not come as easy for the Huskies. Washington still has a ton of holes on defense and lacks the real explosive tailback to complement Locker and the passing game.
The Huskies got people talking immediately last season after they played LSU tough before losing 31-23. And when Washington beat USC 16-13 in Week 3, the Huskies snuck into the national rankings.
But as it turned out, the win over USC wasn’t the monumental upset it was perceived to be at the time. Washington went 3-6 in its final nine games and was smoked by Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford – three of the top four teams in the conference — by a combined score of 125-54.
The Huskies did have quality wins against Arizona and Cal, although, as we all found out, the Bears were pretty bad in all of their losses.
Many of the predictions for more improvement this season come because of what the Huskies pulled off last year. Yes, they did win their final two games against Washington State and Cal by a combined score of 72-10. But for the Huskies to take another step, they desperately need improved play on defense.
Washington ranked 79th nationally in total defense (389.5 ypg) last year and must make up for the losses of middle linebacker Donald Butler and defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, each of whom took his talents to the NFL. The good news is the Huskies return talented outside linebacker Mason Foster, who should be the heart and soul of the defense. Washington should also reap the benefits of playing a lot of inexperienced players in the secondary last season. Most notable is the return of Desmond Trufant, who could emerge as one of the conference’s top cornerbacks.
If the Huskies can get improved defensive play, they have the offense to make a run up the Pac-10 ladder. Locker is a dual threat quarterback who should be able to stretch the field with explosive receiver Jermaine Kearse. The offensive line is solid.