Washington Huskies vs. Auburn Tigers Preview
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Washington Huskies vs. Auburn Tigers Preview

After being belittled by "cupcake schedule" talk, UW has a chance to flex their muscles to kickoff the 2018 season!

Washington Huskies vs. Auburn Tigers Preview
Twitter: @CFAPeachBowl

Rutgers, Idaho, Portland State, Montana, Fresno State...what do these teams all have in common? Each of them played against the Washington Huskies throughout the 2016-2017 seasons and really put a damper on the Huskies chances to get respect from the talking heads around ESPN. UW won the Pac-12 Championship and made it to the College Football Playoff Semi-Final in 2016. However, there was still debate on whether UW should get a chance at the Playoffs before the top four teams were announced since the Huskies had a "cupcake-loaded schedule" (and the conversation didn't stop after losing soundly to Alabama).

To kickoff the 2018 season, the Huskies face a team that is far more superior than a cupcake. They're facing the equivalent of a Ghiraddelli Triple Chocolate Fudge Mousse Cake with White Chocolate shavings and a few raspberries on top, made by Chef Gordon Ramsey...the Auburn Tigers (not Auburn, WA but Alabama).

The Associated Press released their Top 25, putting the Huskies at #6, their highest ranking since 1997. Their September 1st opponent starts off at #9, which sets the stage for a fantastic opening weekend showdown for College Football fans. If the Huskies want to be taken seriously as a legitimate contender for a National Championship, a win against Auburn would put them clearly on the map for all of ESPN and the rest of College Football to take note on. This is also a game that the Pac-12 will be keeping their eyes on as Washington is the Pac-12's only shot at going to the CFP at the end of the season as it's projected to be another so-so year for the conference (Remember: The Pac-12 finished 1-8 in Bowl games last season...yikes).

3 Things To Watch For:

1. Jake Browning and the offense against an SEC Defense

Although this is not the 2016 Huskies, nor is it Alabama, QB Jake Browning finished 20/38 with 150 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs, while RB Myles Gaskin only ran for 34 yards on 10 carries in the 24-7 loss to Bama in the 2016 Peach Bowl. Both Browning and Gaskin return for their final year of eligibility and I'll be playing close attention to how well this offense performs against another SEC-caliber defense. Unfortunately, it's the first game of the season and there will be "first game jitters" from both teams so it will be really hard to judge so early in the season. Browning will desperately need some help not only from his O-Line, led by Trey Adams who is still 50/50 on playing in this game. He'll need help from speedy RB Salvon Ahmed, WRs Aaron Fuller, Ty Jones, Quinten Pounds and TE Drew Sample to help the offense driving the Auburn D down the field. Most importantly, if Chico McClatcher can return from his 2017 season-ending injury and make some explosive plays along with the rest of the WRs in a game like this, it gives me some hope for the rest of the season that this offense might improve from its backtracked 2017 season (We miss you John Ross).

2. The New Era of Death Row Defense

Chris Petersen has built some legendary defenses at UW, but this years group of studs might be the best that UW has had. While I'd like to see Browning and crew show us what they got on offense, this Husky defense will steal the show. It's safe to say that UW has the best set of DBs in the country. I'm keeping my eye on FS Taylor Rapp and CB Byron Murphy and seeing how they handle a test such as Auburn. Also, in order to win ANY football game, you have to sack the QB often. Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham is poised to have an exceptional year with a poor O-Line, so I'll be seeing how well DE Benning Potoa'e and NT Greg Gains are able to apply pressure. I'd like to see at least three sacks and a lot of pressure towards Stidham, as the Huskies Defense is extremely dangerous, but can be vulnerable against top-notch talent. Penn State tallied 544 total yards on the Huskies Defense in the Fiesta Bowl last year. This Defense will be scary good, but they're going to be put to the test early and if they come out victorious on September 1st, the defense will be the main reason behind it.

3. Redshirt Kicking

I hype up this UW team like crazy, but their one flaw lately and one of the biggest question marks surrounding this season is the field goal kicking. It's safe to say Auburn might be in the same boat. Both teams are set to play Redshirt Freshman kickers, Peyton Henry for UW and Anders Carlson for the Tigers. He may have another year under his belt, but Husky Sophomore Kicker Van Soderberg went 1 for 3 last year, so UW really doesn't have many options. The kicking game could very well make or break the 2018 season for the Huskies. Whoever Coach Pete decides to put out there, he better take a nice deep breath, relax, and try not to think about the fact that a missed Field Goal could ruin a lot...but no pressure or anything, right?!

UW Wins This Game If...

The Husky Defense is able to bend, but don't break. I'm truly worried about Jake Browning's ability to show up and play in these critical games. The offense might not have to do much, but I really hope they do! As long as the D can manage to hold Auburn to FGs and put pressure on that Redshirt Freshman, the offense should do just enough to make a few clutch plays and help out that talented Huskies Defense. This isn't a knack on the Offense as I believe they will be explosive, but this is saying more about Auburn's tough defense.

UW Loses This Game If...

UW has to kick a last-second FG. Just kidding...but not really. No, but seriously folks...UW loses this game if they lose the turnover battle. The Huskies cannot afford costly turnovers against this Auburn team. Browning will need to make smart decisions and not be too risky in a game like this. I'm seriously in love with this UW Defense and I believe we could see an Interception or two from them. Those are the mistakes Browning can't afford to make and if turnovers are made by UW, it's those costly errors that ruin your chance at victory.

The Verdict:

It's put up or shut up time for UW! The cupcake talk is over thanks to this game, and although a loss won't take them out of playoff talk, another loss later in the year might be the blemish that marks a potential bummer of a missed shot at ultimate glory. I had UW winning this game in my 2018 Season Preview, and as the day to this game gets closer, my stomach grows more and more upset. It's going to be a tough task, but I honestly believe that UW is going to make just enough plays (and perhaps some trick plays from Coach Pete) while the Defense helps mark one of the most impressive victories in UW history!

Pick: UW 17 Auburn 13

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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