No. 5 Washington

Never mind that lopsided 24-7 loss to Alabama in the College Football Playoff semi-finals. Forget all that snickering/outrage about the Huskies’ nonconference schedule, which will remain soft this fall.

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As he heads into his fourth season in Seattle. Chris Petersen has it going. It’s Washington monumental.

The Huskies return the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the year, junior QB Jake Browning, who tied the Pac-12 record for touchdown passes (43) in an attack that averaged a league-best 41.8 points.

Washington also has a top runner, Myles Gaskin, and receiver, Dante Pettis, plus a stout set of blockers in an offense that’s in all-around great shape.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

The defense might have a few more question marks, but nothing ominous. Inside backer Azeem Victor is a candidate for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, and defensive tackle Vita Vea anchors what is likely to be a top-notch front seven.

Last year, for all the moaning about Washington’s nonconference shmooze, there were concerns about its league tightrope walk. The Huskies handled that well, suffering their only regular-season loss against USC.

This year, the Pac-12 schedule looks a little more favorable. UCLA is in, USC is out. There is a trip to Stanford, which ought to be primed after losing 44-6 in Seattle. But the Bruins, Oregon, Utah and Washington State all come to Seattle.

All in all, Petersen appears to have restored a program that had been under-achieving for too long.[/membership]