Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s eventual CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 5, 8 and 14 on our 2017 list.
Our Top 25 — so far:
Today’s team: No. 5 Washington
The Huskies’ best-case scenario: Anything but a return to the CFP will be a disappointment.
Their worst-case scenario: The Huskies have a hiccup like they did last year in Pac-12 play — a 14-7 loss to Arizona State — and fail to make the conference championship game.
Inside the Huskies
Coach: Chris Petersen (fifth year, 37-17; 129-29 overall at Boise State and Washington)
2017: 10-3, 7-2 in the Pac-12 (lost to Penn State 35-28 in the Fiesta Bowl)
Returning starters: 8 offense, 9 defense
Goodbye: DT Vita Vea (1st, Buccaneers); WR Dante Pettis (2nd, 49ers); LB Azeem Victor (6th, Raiders); TE Will Dissly (4th, Seahawks); LB Keishawn Bierria (6th, Broncos)
Spring cleaning: Everyone outside the state of Washington has heard the names of Huskies stars Jake Browning (QB) and Myles Gaskin (RB). However, cornerback Elijah Molden took home the “Best Hands” trophy for spring practice. The 5-10, 191-pound sophomore was one of the most improved players this spring and likely earned a spot in new defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake’s nickel package. … Speaking of Lake, UW made him the highest paid assistant in the program’s history in May when it gave him a three-year extension worth $1.1 million annually.
PASSING: Jake Browning, 230-336-2,719, 19/5 (1st)
RUSHING: Myles Gaskin, 222-1,380-21 (1st); Salvin Ahmed, 61-388-3 (3rd)
RECEIVING: Aaron Fuller, 26-291-1 (2nd); TE Hunter Bryant, 22-331-1 (3rd)
TACKLES: LB Ben Burr-Kirven, 84 (1st); DB Taylor Rapp, 59 (3rd); DB Myles Bryant, 57 (4th)
SACKS: OLB Ryan Bowman, 5.5 (1st); OLB Tevis Bartlett, 3.5 (T-3rd); DL Jaylen Johnson, 3.5 (T-3rd)
INTERCEPTIONS: DB Byron Murphy, 3 (1st)
Returning All-Pac 12 players (11)
Offense: OL Kaleb McGary (1st team); RB Myles Gaskin (2nd); RB Salvin Ahmed (hon. mention); QB Jake Browning (hon. mention); OL Nick Harris (hon. mention)
Defense: DB Taylor Rapp (1st); DL Greg Gaines (2nd); LB Ben Burr-Kirven (2nd); DB Jojo McIntosh (2nd); OLB Tevis Bartlett (hon. mention); DB Myles Bryant (hon. mention)
(Psst. They play defense, too): Washington’s defense in 2017 was a bit unappreciated. It happens. Especially when the offense was the second-highest scoring unit in the Pac-12 and 17th in the nation (36.2 points per game) and has two possible Heisman candidates in Browning and Gaskin. However, the defense finished fifth nationally in points allowed —16.1 per game. The rest of the Pac-12 should be on notice as nine starters return from that defense.
Lots of weapons: Washington’s backfield may be one of the best in the nation. Browning returns for his senior season as does Gaskin, who has 4,055 career rushing yards. Browning threw for 2,719 yards and 19 touchdowns while Gaskin amassed 1,380 yards and averaged 6.2 yards per carry. Browning lost his favorite target — the graduated Dante Pettis. Look for the deep threat Chico McClatcher and tight end Hunter Bryant to get a lot of looks from the pass-happy Huskies.
Scheduling issues: Washington’s schedule was a bit soft in 2017 with non-conference games against Big Ten cupcake Rugters, FCS powerhouse Montana and the Mountain West’s Fresno State. All were at home. That won’t be the case this year. The Huskies will charge out of the gate against Auburn in the heart of SEC country — Atlanta. The game will likely set the tone for Washington’s hopes of making the College Football Playoff. Other non-conference games include FCS juggernaut North Dakota and BYU. The conference schedule is equally concerning with away games at UCLA, Utah and Washington State.
2017 national rankings
Scoring: 17th (36.2 ppg) — right above fellow Pac-12er Oregon at No. 18, right behind No. 16 Tulsa
Points allowed: 5th (16.1 ppg) — right above No. 6 Georgia, right behind No. 4 Virginia Tech
Passing: 72nd (222.2 ypg) — right above No. 73 Pittsburgh, right behind No. 71 Idaho
Rushing: 44th (183.2 ypg) — right above No. 45 Alabama-Birmingham, right behind No. 43 Louisiana-Lafayette
Total offense: 58th (405.5 ypg) — right above No. 59 Baylor, right behind No. 57 Boise State
Total defense: 8th (298.0 ypg) — sandwiched between two Big Ten schools, right above No. 9 Ohio State, right behind No. 7 Michigan State
|DATE||OPPONENT||LAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)|
|Sept. 1 (2:30 p.m., ABC)||Auburn|
|Sept. 8 (4 p.m., P12N)||North Dakota|
|Sept. 15 (9 p.m., ESPN)||at Utah*||W, 33-30 in Seattle|
|Sept. 22||Arizona State*||L, 13-7 in Tempe|
|Oct. 6||at UCLA*||W, 44-23 in Seattle|
|Oct. 13||at Oregon*||W, 38-3 in Seattle|
|Oct. 20||Colorado*||W, 37-10 in Boulder|
|Oct. 27||at California*||W, 38-7 in Seattle|
|Nov. 3||Stanford*||L, 30-22 in Stanford|
|Nov. 17||Oregon State*||W, 42-7 in Corvallis|
|Nov. 23 (5:30 p.m., Fox)||at Washington State*||W, 41-14 in Seattle|
|* Pac-12 game|
The key game: Sept. 1 vs. Auburn (at Atlanta)
The last 5 years
|YEAR||W-L (CONF.)||RANKINGS||BOWL, RESULT|
|2013||9-4 (5-4)||— / 25th||Fight Hunger, W|
|2014||8-6 (4-5)||25th / —||Cactus, L|
|2015||7-6 (4-5)||— / —||Heart of Texas, L|
|2016||12-2 (8-1)||14th / 4th||CFP semifinals, L|
|2017||10-3 (7-2)||8th / 16th||Fiesta, L|
|Total||46-21 (28-17 Pac-12)||1-4 in bowls|
Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking
Our Top 25, by conferences
Pac-12 — No. 5 Washington, No. 14 Stanford, No. 20 USC, No. 23 Oregon
Big Ten — No. 6 Wisconsin, No. 10 Penn State, No. 11 Michigan State, No. 12 Michigan
Big 12 — No. 8 Oklahoma, No. 15 TCU, No. 19 West Virginia, No. 25 Texas
ACC — No. 7 Miami, No. 16 Virginia Tech, No. 21 Florida State
SEC — No. 9 Auburn, No. 17 Mississippi State, No. 24 LSU
Independents — No. 13 Notre Dame
Mountain West — No. 18 Boise State
AAC — No. 22 Central Florida
Coming tomorrow: Our No. 4 team
Want a hint?
This school’s coach has coached under Nick Saban three times — twice in college, once in the NFL.