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It took the University of Washington three days to hire Steve Sarkisian’s replacement. The man selected to lead the Huskies into the next phase of their program’s history is Chris Petersen, who rewrote record books at Boise State and turned a team that plays on blue turf into a team perennially entrenched in the national discussion. This was a job that Petersen handpicked after turning down numerous offers for interviews and probably some job offers. The Huskies are in good hands.

And the Huskies are going to need to be in good hands. Four notable starters are no longer on the team as Keith Price, Bishop Sankey, Kevin Smith, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins either graduated or went to the NFL. What the Huskies lost in name recognition shouldn’t overshadow what they return because this team is very strong in the trenches and that gives Petersen a lot to work with. With a tremendous home-field advantage, a manageable schedule, and a lot of returning talent, the Washington Huskies could make some serious noise in the Pac-12.

2014 Washington Huskies Offense

Cyler Miles will get the keys to the offense after he redshirted in his first year with the program and appeared in eight games last season. Miles started against Oregon State and helped to lead the Huskies in a 69-27 road win at Corvallis. Miles, a former top-five recruit at his position, has tremendous size at 6’4”, 217 lbs and will reap the benefits of having one of the country’s top offensive lines in front of him. All five starters and 124 starts worth of experience will open holes for Miles and the running game.

Even though Bishop Sankey, Kevin Smith, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins are gone, the cupboard is far from bare at the skill positions. Kasen Williams, at 6’3”, 221 lbs, and Jaydon Mickens, who led the team with 65 receptions last season, are going to be tough for Pac-12 secondaries to cover. Miles is a better runner than Keith Price, which will add another dimension to the Washington offense that is going to open up passing lanes. There’s very little experience at running back, but a senior-laden offensive line should elevate whoever becomes the feature back. Petersen and his offensive staff never had a problem finding a feature back at Boise State.

2014 Washington Huskies Defense

A very solid group in 2013 returns seven starters for 2014. The Huskies defense mostly took a tackling-by-committee approach as Princeton Fuimaono had 80 tackles to lead the team, but 10 players had 50 or more tackles and seven of those 10 players return for this season. The biggest name on that list is Shaq Thompson, who had 78 tackles in his follow-up to a great freshman season in 2012. The Huskies are hoping that Thompson can be their answer to UCLA’s Myles Jack, as Thompson has also taken some reps at running back in the lead-up to the season.

The defensive line returns in tact and they held opposing offenses to just 161 yards per game rushing. The defense racked up 41 sacks, led by returning senior defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha. The secondary has some talent, but some graduation losses could lead to a starting spot for true freshman Budda Baker, the #14 defensive back recruit in the 2014 class. This is the main area of concern for the Huskies defense, as there are no seniors projected to start and only two on the depth chart. The inexperience in the secondary has to be a concern, especially in a conference like the Pac-12 with a lot of quality quarterbacks.

2014 Washington Huskies Special Teams/Coaching

The Huskies have to replace starting kicker/punter Travis Coons, who was 15-of-16 in field goals and averaged 40.4 yards per punt. Cameron Van Winkle set some high school records at Washington and it’s important that they picked up an in-state kicker because the rainy, wet conditions can be difficult to kick in.

This doesn’t really fit anywhere but under this subheading, but the Huskies are 16-3 at home over the last three seasons and some renovations to Husky Stadium increased the level of crowd noise. That trend should not stop under Petersen, who was nearly unbeatable on the blue turf with the Broncos. He brings his quarterbacks coach, Jonathan Smith, to Washington to be the offensive coordinator and Pete Kwiatkowski, who was with Petersen all eight seasons at Boise State, is the defensive coordinator. There should be a lot of continuity on this staff. Petersen was 9-3 against BCS competition and 92-12 over his eight seasons at Boise State. The Broncos were 56-46 ATS in lined games under Petersen.

Washington Huskies 2014 College Football Schedule

The Huskies have one of the friendlier Pac-12 schedules. They travel to Eugene to take on the Oregon Ducks on October 18, but they play Cal the week before that. The September 27 home game against Stanford should be a huge game as Petersen tries to get his first big win with the Huskies. Later in the season, on November 8, UCLA comes to town.

The non-conference schedule is hardly demanding, with games against Hawaii, Eastern Washington, Illinois, and Georgia State. With the exception of Oregon, the toughest conference games are at home as Arizona State is the Homecoming game in late October along with Stanford, UCLA, and Oregon State. The road games in conference are at Cal, at Oregon, at Colorado, at Arizona, and the Apple Cup regular season finale is in Pullman against Washington State.

Washington Huskies 2014 Season Prediction: 10-3

Everything sets up very nicely for Chris Petersen in his first season with the Huskies. A lot of talent returns and the Huskies aren’t tested until Week 5 against Stanford, so Petersen has plenty of time to work out the kinks. Not only does 10 wins seem likely, but 11 is a real possibility as well, despite five road conference games. The Huskies are a very balanced team with two areas of strength – the offensive and defensive lines.

Bettors may want to take a look at Washington to win the Pac-12 North in the area of 7-to-1, as well as over nine wins on their season win total. This is a team that could take advantage of a Stanford team that appears to be down a notch or two and an Oregon team that has some problems of its own.

**Kyle Hunter’s 2014 College Football and NFL Season Subscriptions are now available. Kyle Hunter is up 47.44 units on his football plays since 2010. If you are a fan of both NCAA FB and the NFL, get the Football Fanatic Season Pass for all football picks at just $749.99**

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