SEATTLE — After an unexpectedly strong 2022 season, the Washington Huskies enter 2023 as the No. 10 team in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll.
It was a turbulent offseason across college sports away from the field, as the seemingly never-ending wave of conference realignment saw UW accept an invitation to join the Big Ten. Along with Oregon, USC and UCLA, the Huskies will begin competing in the conference next year, as the Pacific 12 Conference appears set to crumble.
UW's 2023 season gets underway Saturday with a home game at Husky Stadium against the Boise State Broncos.
Here's what you should know about Washington's team as it chases a conference title and possibly even a return to the College Football Playoff.
Who are UW's impact players?
Quarterback Michael Penix burst onto the national scene a year ago, throwing for the second-most yards in the country and nearly playing himself into an invite to the Heisman Trophy Ceremony in New York. All eyes will be on Penix, who is a betting favorite to be among the finalists for the Heisman, awarded annually to the best player in the sport.
Penix will have a number of elite players to throw to, including a trio of wide receivers who have made their own waves nationally. Rome Odunze led the Pacific-12 Conference in receiving yards in 2022 and wanted to partner with Penix on Montlake for one more season, despite being a likely early-round draft pick. Jalen McMillan was a second-team preseason All-American by some outlets and also topped 1,000 yards and hauled in nine touchdown receptions last season. Ja'Lynn Polk was a freshman All-American in 2022 and should again be a focal point of the passing game.
Bralen Trice and Zion Tupuola-Fetui represent a terrifying proposition for opposing offenses, on the other hand. Trice is a nearly consensus preseason All-American and appears primed for a huge season. Tupuola-Fetui, or ZTF as he's known around campus, dominated in 2020 before suffering season-ending injuries in back-to-back years. Now the two are again teamed up and should wreak havoc on quarterbacks.
Jabbar Muhammad is another player to keep an eye on Saturday as he makes his debut in a Huskies uniform. The Oklahoma State transfer started 13 of 31 games as a Cowboy and was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection in 2022. With the pressure UW's front is expected to generate, Muhammad and the rest of Washington's defensive backs could have plenty of opportunities to force turnovers.
When does UW Football play?
(Games in bold will be played at Husky Stadium)
Sept. 2 - Boise State
Sept. 9 - Tulsa
Sept. 16 - at Michigan State
Sept. 23 - California
Sept. 30 - at Arizona
Oct. 14 - Oregon
Oct. 21 - Arizona State
Oct. 28 - at Stanford
Nov. 4 - at USC
Nov. 11 - Utah
Nov. 18 - at Oregon State
Nov. 25 - Washington State
Dec. 1 - Pac-12 Championship Game
Predictions for UW Football
If Washington can build on last season's success and avoid any letdowns like the loss to Arizona State in 2022, it will be hard to imagine the Huskies losing to just about anyone on their schedule. A perfect season is extremely rare in today's college football world, so Washington's lone blemish on the 2023 season will be Penix's primary rival for the Heisman, Caleb Williams and the USC Trojans.
UW will finish the regular season 12-1, winning the Pac-12 Championship and finding itself in the conversation for the College Football Playoff. However, the Huskies will be the victim of West Coast bias and fall outside the Top 4. However, the team will play in a New Year's Six bowl and come away with a victory to cap off one of the most successful seasons in school history.
These are certainly bold predictions, but the Huskies have earned a high degree of confidence from fans nationwide. Whether they can live up to those lofty expectations remains to be seen, but the excitement on Montlake is palpable heading into Saturday's season opener.