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3 reasons Washington Huskies are serious contenders for a big college football bowl game

Washington football, Washington Huskies football, Michael Penix Jr.

Week 3 of the college football season is behind us, and the College Football Playoff picture is growing clearer. Most of the usual contenders, such as Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State, won in blowout fashion, as expected. However, one surprise college football team is emerging as a contender after a big win on Saturday: Washington.

The Huskies made a big statement with a 39-28 over then-No. 11 Michigan State in a game that wasn’t as close as the score would indicate. Washington built a 25-point lead in he fourth quarter and racked up over 500 yards of total offense.

The college football world took notice of Washington’s big day. After starting the season unranked for the first three weeks, the Huskies jumped all the way up to 18th in the most recent AP Poll. Some, such as ESPN’s Bill Connelly, have even claimed Washington could be a playoff team at the end of the season.

While that seems a little ambitious, the Huskies are in a great position to make some noise this season. Here are just a few reasons why Washington could be in line for a major college football bowl game at season’s end.

3. Washington football has a soft 2022 schedule

With the win over Michigan State, Washington wrapped up its non-conference slate undefeated at 3-0. The Huskies’ schedule so far has been pretty easy so far, with games against Kent State and Portland State in the first two weeks, but they’ve dominated in each game so far. Despite the lackluster competition, Washington looks like a tough foe for any team in the Pac-12.

Even with conference play approaching, Washington’s schedule looks more than manageable going forward. The Huskies only have one more game against a ranked foe, a road matchup with Oregon on Nov. 12. They avoid two of the other heavyweights in the conference, USC and Utah, and play most of the bottom-feeders such as Stanford, Arizona State and Colorado.

This weak schedule may hurt the Huskies, as the CFP selection community values strength of schedule. If the goal is just to reach a bowl, however, then this schedule could be an asset.

With this road ahead, the Huskies have a real chance of ending the regular season with one loss, or maybe even undefeated if they can beat the Ducks. That could very well earn them a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game, and if that happens, all bets are off.

2. Revamped coaching staff

It may be hard to believe after the strong start to this season, but Washington was a disaster in 2021. The Huskies finished the season 4-8, including a 3-6 mark in conference play. That season included some miserable games, such as a loss to FCS Montana to start the season and a 40-13 drubbing against Washington State to close it out.

A big part of Washington’s struggles last season was head coach Jimmy Lake. Not only was he ineffective on the field, but a distraction off of it as well. Washington suspended Lake on Nov. 8 after he got physical with players in practice, and fired him soon after.

To replace Lake, Washington hired Fresno State head coach Kalen DeBoer fresh off a 9-3 season with the Bulldogs. So far, the hire has paid dividends for the Huskies, and they look like a completely different team so far this season. If he can keep building a winning culture this season, the sky is the limit for the Huskies.

1. Michael Penix Jr. is a star for Washington football

After four seasons at Indiana, Penix decided to take his talents to the West Coast for 2022. The Tampa native put together a solid career as a Hoosier, with over 4,000 passing yards, 29 touchdowns and a 12-5 record as a starter. DeBoer named him the starter in August, and with his performance, it’s hard to believe there was ever a competition.

Penix has been a dynamo for the Huskies through their first three games. The quarterback is completing 66% of his passes for 1,079 yards and 10 touchdowns with only one pick. He especially showed out against the Spartans, throwing for 397 yards and four touchdowns to win Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week.

Even better, Penix has already developed great chemistry with his receivers. Sophomore Jalen McMillan leads the team with 16 catches and 308 yards, with three touchdowns to boot. Freshman Ja’Lynn Polk got off to a bit of a slow start, but went off with six catches for 153 yards and three touchdowns in the Michigan State game.

Penix is on pace to shatter his career highs in yards and touchdowns, which should excite all Huskies fans. Washington’s offense currently ranks fourth in total yards and second in passing yards, largely thanks to Penix. If he can maintain this level of play, the Huskies will be a scary team for any foe.