Editor’s note: Saturday Out West’s annual Crystal Ball prediction series will preview every team in the Pac-12. Today: Washington.

Already covered: UtahOregonUSCUCLA, Oregon State


No one in the Pac-12 saw Washington’s 2021 collapse coming. Of course, the dysfunction started at the top, as former second-year head coach Jimmy Lake was fired for shoving one of his players.

Coming soon after a 26-16 loss to No. 4 Oregon dropped the Huskies to 4-5 on the year, Washington went 0-3 the rest of the way in increasingly embarrassing fashion. First, a 5-point loss to Arizona State. Then a road defeat at Colorado by a field goal. Then a 40-13 thrashing in the Apple Cup that was the Huskies’ worst margin against Washington State.

But the issue wasn’t talent. And it probably won’t be talent this year. If the Huskies can keep a stable locker room and grow quickly under DeBoer, they could live up to the billing. If Washington doesn’t catch on to the DeBoer style, it could be a disappointing year.

Take a look below to see how things stack up …

Can Kalen DeBoer make an instant impact in Year 1?

A unique offensive thinker in the mold of (Oregon) Chip Kelly, DeBoer is 79-9 as a head coach, leading Sioux Falls to 3 NAIA championships in 5 years from 2005-09 and Fresno State to a 12-3 record the past 2 seasons.

Many lauded DeBoer’s hire after the calamity that was Lake, and expectations are unusually high for a team coming off a 4-8 record.

But the secret weapon may not be DeBoer, but offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb, who is raising eyebrows by raising the speed for the Huskies.

Will Michael Penix Jr. seize the quarterback position and shine?

It usually takes a legit resume for a transfer to unseat a returning 2-year starter. And in some ways, Penix’s bona fides are established. He has a career 29-13 touchdown/interception ratio and as a first-year starter for the Indiana Hoosiers in 2019, he went 5-1 in 6 starts with a 68.8 completion percentage and 10 touchdowns with only 4 picks.

But his Hoosier career went downhill, primarily due to injuries, and though he went 12-4 as a starter, he moved on to reconnect with DeBoer.

In a weird twist of fate, DeBoer — who served as Indiana offensive coordinator in 2019 before becoming head coach at Fresno State in 2020-21 — moved on to Washington and had a spot open for Penix.

That reunion could lead to big things … or Dylan Morris, who started for the Huskies the past 2 years with poor results, could once again emerge as the starter.

Can the defense hold down the fort until reinforcements arrive?

DeBoer announced the bad news back on Aug. 4: star linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio won’t return from his knee injury until at least halfway through the year.

“I would expect that when you think about the recovery,” the first-year coach said. “You do these things to prepare him for success down the road.”

This is respectable, and after the Huskies ran Jaxson Kirkland into the ground last year, it’s nice to see priorities are getting straight. If and when Ulofoshio does return, though, he’ll make an immediate impact. He’s just that good. And if the Huskies get to 4-3 without him, he could be the difference between a 6-win season and an 8-win season.

Game-by-game predictions

Week 1: vs. Kent State (W)

Don’t expect DeBoer to pull out all the stops in a season-opener with the Golden Flashes. The teams meet for the first time, and Washington will be expected to win easily. Kent State went 7-7 last season but fell flat against Power Five teams.

As bad as the Huskies looked last season, they’re not going to lose this one.

Week 2: vs. Portland State (W)

Nor this one. Washington moves to 2-0 with a handy victory over the Vikings.

Week 3: vs. Michigan State (L)

This one’s not quite so easy — the Spartans open the season ranked No. 15 nationally.

The teams have met only three times, a home-and-home split in 1969-70 and the 1997 Aloha Bowl, which Washington dominated 51-23. And the Spartans have a sparse recent history with the Pac-12, scoring a combined 26 points in home-and-away losses to Arizona State in 2018-19 and a 2018 RedBox Bowl loss to Oregon.

So we don’t have recent history to judge by and instead must rely on the talent differential of the teams. And the Spartans have the Huskies beat there. Washington will have to contain 3,200-yard passer Payton Thorne, though it gets a reprieve with talented running back Kenneth Walker III off to the NFL. The Huskies might be able to catch Michigan State looking ahead to a brutal midseason schedule that sees the Spartans take on Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan in the span of four weeks.

Week 4: vs. Stanford (W)

This used to be one of the most lopsided rivalries in the then-Pac-10. Before 2004, the Huskies had won 20 of the previous 22 matchups with the Cardinal, losing in 1994 and in 1982, with Stanford led by a young John Elway.

Since 2004, though, the Trees have owned the Huskies, to the tune of a 12-5 advantage. Even when Washington was winning under Chris Petersen and Co., Stanford had success.

But last year, the Huskies flipped the script, rushing for 229 yards on the once-mighty Cardinal, and Dylan Morris’ touchdown pass to Jalen McMillan lifted UDub over Stanford.

In rollicking Husky Stadium, Washington will win once more, as Stanford still needs to prove its running game is resuscitated.

Week 5: at UCLA (L)

The Bruins and Huskies match up pretty well, and if this game was in Husky Stadium — where the Bruins have experienced only rare success — I might think it ends differently. After playing every season from 1993-2010, the Huskies and Bruins have only met in home-and-home, off-and-off cycles in the past dozen years. UCLA won in 2013-14, Washington won in 2017-18 and the Bruins won, 24-17, last season in Seattle.

But I think this is the year Chip Kelly proves his worth to UCLA fans who’ve been aching for success, and veteran quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is going to have a day.

Week 6: at Arizona State (W)

I don’t often think one player’s absence can change the dynamic of a game.
But, well, Rachaad White was that dynamic. In a 35-30 ASU win last year, White had 184 rushing yards and two touchdowns and 53 receiving yards.

White is gone now, and though the Sun Devils have a capable replacement in two-time 1,000-yard rusher Xazavian Valladay, he’s no White.

A healthier, more stable Washington offense won’t be shut down like it was last year, the Huskies move to 4-2 in their first of two consecutive wins against Grand Canyon State opponents.

Week 7: vs. Arizona (W)

The Wildcats are in the midst of one weird training camp, and my optimism around the offense is dropping by the day. But even if Arizona were humming in mid-August, I’d still take the Huskies in mid-October. Arizona may ultimately rectify its offensive woes, but Washington’s talented defense is going to get after it, much like it did last year in a 21-16 win.

Week 8: at Cal (L)

I don’t like the fact that so many of Washington’s most talented players have had injury woes. My opinion of this game changes a bit if Ulofoshio is able to return by now.

If he doesn’t, and the Huskies are down any other potential all-conference players — which, just by nature, I expect to happen — I see Cal being able to withstand a Washington defense that needs a rest. It’ll get one with a bye the following week.

In last year’s matchup, Washington’s Jackson Sirmon and Cameron Williams combined to force a Damien Moore fumble at the goal line in overtime as the Huskies escaped with a 31-24 win.

Well, now Sirmon is with his pops — defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon — in Berkeley, as is this game.

Week 9: Bye

Week 10: vs. Oregon State (L)

What does it say about a team when it holds a quarterback to just 48 passing yards on seven completions and still loses? The Huskies suffered an early conference loss to Oregon State last year that helped torpedo their season.

That was Washington’s first loss to the Beavers since 2011. A second is on the horizon, though, as Oregon State catches the Huskies at a weird time, coming off a bye and heading into a brutal road game at Oregon.

Week 11: at Oregon (L)

Washington has a chance if Oregon is caught looking ahead at Utah and Oregon State in the following 2 weeks.

And though the Huskies have some impressive invididual talent, it is dwarfed by Ducks like Noah Sewell, Justin Flowe, and Brandon Dorlus on defense and TJ Bass and Alex Forsyth on the offensive line.

Oregon has recent history on its side, as well. The Ducks have won 15 of their past 17 matchups, including three straight.

The loss sends the once Huskies (who start 5-2) back to .500.

Week 12: vs. Colorado (W)

With 1 win left to get to postseason eligibility, the Huskies get a gift from the scheduling gods with Colorado in Week 12. This is a get-right game after the Huskies’ recent slide.

Week 13: at Washington State (L)

At one point, Washington State had a nice little program up there in Pullman, and indeed, the Cougars went 4-1 against their Apple Cup rivals from 2004-08.

But starting with a 30-0 Washington win in 2009, the Huskies won 10 of the next 11 matchups, often in dominant fashion. Washington State didn’t even top 17 points for seven straight years.

Then last year, the Cougars turned the tables, taking a giant bite out of the Apple in a 40-13 win. It was a flawless victory, the biggest margin in Cup history for Washington State.

This game will be decided up front on both sides — each team has talent but perilous depth. I just expect the Cougars to be closer to whole at this point.

2022 Projection: 6-6 (4-5)


The Huskies are considered a major bounce-back team by many in the media.

ESPN’s Football Power Index pegs the Huskies at 7.5 wins, almost 2 full wins more than I have for Washington. My biases against three things are keeping me from projecting more than a two-win upgrade: a new head coach, the quarterback situation, and what I consider to be a high probability for injury issues.

I’ll say this: If Ryan Grubb’s pace and tempo are as advertised, the Crystal Ball will show some cracks.