No. 6: Washington

Can we make too much of Washington’s season opener vs. Auburn in Atlanta on Sept. 1? Probably not.

Herb,NEW, 8-12-18

It’s obviously huge for the Huskies. They are the Pac-12’s best hope for the College Football Playoff, which has not been a happy place in the land of surfing and sunsets.

Washington-Auburn also is huge for the SEC-free world. No pressure, but if college football wants to avoid a repeat of last year’s grits-and-bear-it playoff, which featured Alabama, Georgia and Clemson (the best SEC team not in the SEC), a Washington win over Auburn would be a great place to start.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

The Pac-12 has only earned two bids in the four years of the CFP. Two years ago, Washington earned one of them—and got clobbered 24-7 by Alabama—in Waffle-House-laden Atlanta.

Last year the Huskies lost a head-scratcher at Arizona State and then lost at Stanford and didn’t even make the Pac-12 championship game, let alone the national playoff.

So. . . all credit to Washington for scheduling a do-or-die opener against Auburn in Atlanta—only 109 miles and 40-odd Waffle Houses from Auburn.

The Huskies are also playing BYU, which is Wisconsin’s so-called ``marquee’’ nonconference game. Any chance the Badgers are rooting for Washington to diminish the SEC’s strength-of-schedule numbers? And then get upset by BYU?

Throw in the nine-game Pac-12 schedule and Washington will either have a great CFP resume—or a quiet holiday season.

On the plus side, fifth-year coach Chris Peterson has a team built for success. Fourth-year QB Jake Browning has all the tools to bounce back into the Heisman conversation after a disappointing 2017. Browning will need more help than he got last year. But with eight starters returning on offense, that’s a reasonable expectation.

And the defense, which returns nine starters and has led the Pac-12 in points-allowed the last three seasons, will be ``one of the best in the country again!’’ to use Phil Steele’s exclamation point.

Now all the Huskies have to do is beat Auburn. And then continue to bring their A Game for the rest of the season.[/membership]