The season kicks off tomorrow night for a third of the conference, so here’s a quick preview.
I’m just going to tell you two things: which player I would pick if I could have someone off each team for the Huskies, and how much they concern me. I’ll rate them 1-10, 1 being a cakewalk win (actually kind of hard to do, cakewalks are tricky), 10 being an almost certain loss. I’ll also go in the order I think they’ll finish. So I guess I’m telling you three things. It’s your lucky day. My thoughts here aren’t worth much though, so you’re not that lucky.
Player I want: Pretty much anyone off their roster would work. Especially intriguing are their two 1,000 yard rushers, Curtis McNeal and Silas Redd, or how about All-American DBs Nickell Robey and T.J. McDonald. Or LB Dion Bailey or one of their elite O-linemen. That’s not even mentioning Heisman favorite QB Matt Barkley. #1 USC is not hurting for talent.
For the Huskies though, it would come down to either of their uber-talented WRs, Marquise Lee or Robert Woods. The Huskies could use a little depth here, and these might be the two best receivers in the conference and country. Lee is incredible, but Woods is absolutely electric and a bit more versatile. The only concern is an injury that hampered him in the offseason, but he seems fully recovered. I’d take Woods and his potential 2,000 all-purpose yards in a heartbeat, as would every program in the nation.
Scare-meter: 9. USC thumped UW last year, and they should be even better this year. It’s not an impossible task, but there’s a reason they’re the preseason #1 in the country.
Player I want: No question here. The choice is potential #1 overall pick DT Star Lotulelei. Besides having a great name, he’s the best defender in the conference and would be a terror next to Danny Shelton in the middle of the Dawgs line. RB John White IV is excellent as well, but Star is the only real choice here.
Scare-meter: 6. This should maybe be higher, but I want to see them prove it before I get to excited about the Utes. The Huskies handled them fairly easily last year in Utah. It should be a tougher game this year, especially if QB Jordan Wynn stays healthy, but it’s clearly a winnable game.
Player I want: The pickings get slimmer from here on out. My choice is probably RB Jonathan Franklin. He’s a fun back to watch, with speed and some slipperiness to him. He’s also extremely productive. He’s one of the better backs in a conference full of good ones.
Scare-meter: 4. Maybe Mora will get them straightened out, but until that happens they’ll stay a talented team who can’t do anything on the field. I’ve never seen a BCS conference team look as pathetic as they did at the end of the 2011 game against UW. They’ve long been a sleeping giant. I’m hoping they don’t wake up.
Player I want: It’s harder to find a player on some of these teams than I expected. Matt Scott would be a nice backup quarterback, but that’s kind of lame. I’m sure Arizona has at least a few players who could start for the Huskies, but I’m drawing a blank on who they are. I’ll say WR Dan Buckner, who has talent and size and could be in for a big year if they actually throw the ball in their new offense.
Scare-meter: 5. Arizona’s always a pain. They don’t seem like a terribly good team, but Rich Rodriguez is a good coach and they always give the Huskies everything they can handle.
5. Arizona State
Player I want: Here’s another one where I don’t have a clear answer. My inclination is to say their excellent RB Cameron Marshall, a hugely productive bruiser. I’ll go a different direction and say LB Brandon Magee. A solid player and leader, his absence last season due to injury played a big part in the decline of the ASU defense and fellow LB Vontaze Burfict.
Scare-meter: 4. ASU’s a little like UCLA: there’s talent, but it doesn’t often amount to much on the field. I wouldn’t be worried about this one, but unfortunately the Huskies don’t play ASU. Or UCLA, for that matter. Too bad.
Player I want: Poor Colorado. With WSU’s slow ascent, they’re now the clear bottom of the conference. They do have some talent though. WR Paul Richardson is probably their top player, but he’s out for the year with a knee injury. In his absence, I’ll take OL David Bakhtiari (even spelled that right first try). Good enough for Ted Miller to name him preseason All-Pac-12 is good enough to start for the Huskies.
Scare-meter: 2. Colorado isn’t good. They lost one of their only playmakers in Richardson, and they’re breaking in a new QB. The Dawgs get them at the end of a long season, so we’ll hope they’re worn down enough to make up for any advantage the thin air of Boulder gives them.
Player I want: Like USC, lots of good choices here, including S John Boyett, DE Dion Jordan, and LB Michael Clay. For me, it comes down to the two running backs, Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas. Barner’s great, but his injury issues scare me, and well, he’s not De’Anthony Thomas. DAT might get broken in half with more touches this year, but I’m not sure anyone can catch him. He could have 1,000 yards both receiving and rushing. He might win the Heisman as a sophomore. He’s the most electrifying player in the country. There’s a reason that UW was rumored to have offered scholarships to most of his high school teammates to try to get him to Seattle. The guy’s incredible.
Scare-meter: 9. Let’s not dwell on this. Oregon has our number and is a terrible matchup.
Player I want: Stanford has lots of talent, and Chase Thomas is the best linebacker in the conference and a potential All-American, with fellow LB Shayne Skov not far behind. Unfortunately for him, RB Stepfan Taylor is one of my two favorite non-Husky players (the other is coming in a few paragraphs). Despite Stanford’s penchant for spreading carries around, Taylor ran for over 1,300 yards last year. He’s smooth yet dangerous. I love the guy. I may or may not call him Step-Tayls when I think about him.
Scare-meter: 7. Stanford has owned UW recently, but now they don’t have Andrew Luck. They’re still a better team on paper, but it’s hard to know how they’ll respond to an inexperienced quarterback. I could see them continuing the path they’ve been on, falling back severely, or anything in between.
No comments, but this is where I would rank them in the division.
Player I want: WR Keenan Allen is just the best. I wrote this about him last year, and my feelings have only grown stronger. I way overspent on him in our Pac-12 fantasy auction last weekend. He’s just so big and graceful. So good.
Scare-meter: 5. Hard one to call here. They kind of fall into the UCLA camp of results not meeting talent, but not quite that bad. They’ll be fired up for us after the Tosh/Shaq thing, but they’re not overly scary.
Player I want: WR Marquess Wilson is the easiest pick in the whole conference. That’s partly due to a lack of talent for WSU, but mostly it’s because of how incredible Wilson is. Tall, fast, and lightning quick, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he ended up with 2,000 receiving yards in Mike Leach’s new offense.
Scare-meter: 4. I love the Leach hire for WSU, and I think they’re getting better, but they still have a ton of holes. Maybe they’ll improve quicker than I expect, but more than six wins would surprise me with their defense.
Player I want: This is a tough one. WR Markus Wheaton is very good, as is CB Jordan Poyer. In a vacuum, Poyer would be the pick, but given the Huskies’ needs, I’ll take DE Scott Crichton. He had a great freshman year and could develop into one of the better ends in the conference this year, if he’s not one already.
Scare-meter: 4. They got us last year, but the talent’s still down. With a healthy Keith Price, this shouldn’t be a tough game, especially in Seattle.
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