Washington returns a good chunk of the team that won the Pac-12 title and earned a spot in the 2016 College Football Playoff before losing to Alabama in the national semifinal. The goal for coach Chris Petersen heading into his fourth season is not to take a step back after the Huskies’ best season since 2000.
The process begins Friday night against Rutgers, which lost its final nine games and was winless in the Big Ten in Chris Ash’s first season as coach. This will be another rebuilding season.
Rutgers’ defense against a Washington offense that averaged 41.8 points, including 48 in a season-opening win against the Scarlet Knights. The Huskies need to replace WR John Ross, who had 81 receptions and 17 TDs last season. Dante Pettis returns after finishing with 53 catches and 15 TDs. The Scarlet Knights’ secondary is their strength on defense, led by CB Blessuan Austin. The run defense was terrible last season, allowing 264.2 yards per game.
Players to watch
Washington: QB Jake Browning threw for 3,430 yards and 43 TDs. RB back Myles Gaskin has rushed for at least 1,300 yards in each of the last two seasons.
Rutgers: WR-returner Janarion Grant plays his first game since breaking an ankle against Iowa 11 months ago. He averaged 163.75 total yards and had six touchdowns in four games last year.
Facts & figures
Washington has only 16 seniors on the roster. … Rutgers has some transfers playing big roles. QB Kyle Bolin, who started six games at Louisville, is the starter. RB Gus Edwards, a fifth-year senior who graduated from Miami last year, will start for new offensive coordinator Jerry Kill. … Washington led the nation in turnover margin last year at plus-18. … The Huskies are 6-9 in road openers since 1989. … Rutgers has not won a game since beating New Mexico 38-27 on Sept. 17. …. The Scarlet Knights gave up 450 points last season.