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Campus Clash

(6) Washington Huskies at (9) Auburn Tigers

Washington: Just a few seasons ago, they were on top of the Pac-12 and they were in the playoffs but fell short to the Alabama Crimson Tide. I think the best thing the university did was the hiring of Chris Petersen as head coach and he’s led the Huskies to a winning record each year since his debut season in 2014 and in his first four seasons, the team has a record of 37-17. When you look at this team in 2018, they have a total of 16 starters returning (seven on offense, nine on defense) and that includes quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin (who will make a case for himself as one of the best running backs in the country). They will return four starters on the offensive line, but the big question surrounding them is at wide receiver and they’ll be without Dante Pettis who’s now playing professionally and he was such a dynamic player for them. Their defense will once again be the biggest strength as they return everybody from a secondary that ranked tenth in passing yards per attempt. However, they will be without their two best defensive players in Vita Vea and linebacker Keishawn Bierria, but the rest of the front seven will remain intact. This is a challenging way to open up a new season traveling across the country to Atlanta, Georgia.

Auburn: 2017 was definitely a year to remember for them. First, Gus Malzahn comes in with his job on the line and if they failed to win or compete in the SEC West, he’d be relieved of his duties as head coach. Last season was the best year that the Auburn Tigers had since 2013, the year they shocked the world and made it to the national title game. They earned everything that came their way and they beat not one but two number one ranked teams to close out their season. Their first was against the Georgia Bulldogs and a few weeks later in the Iron Bowl against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Those two wins right there saved Gus Malzahn’s job and he was rewarded with another contract extenstion. When new seasons begin, Auburn has had a history of getting off to a slow start, especially on the offensive side, but this year, they have the pieces to avoid that start with Jarrett Stidham and all the receivers from last season returning. Let’s also remember when Malzahn returns his quarterbacks, they always seem to come out firing on all cylinders (think 2014). When I look back at the run that Auburn went on in 17, their defense had a lot to do with that and I look for them to remain one of the best units in the country and they will return eight starters from the group last year. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has a very simple strategy and that’s play sound defense and rely on talent and execution. The Tigers involve safety play aggressively on standard downs, but usually with two DB’s in deep coverage and press coverage outside. They enter the year champs of the SEC West and they’ll welcome the Huskies of Washington for the opener.

Washington Player To Watch: Marquis Spiker– As I mentioned up top, the Huskies have a lot of questions with their wide receivers. This could be the guy to answer all those questions. From watching the tape on him, he’s a guy you can place everywhere and he’ll do anything to come away with the catch. He’s 6’3, 181 pounds with good speed to break away and get open. He can give them some depth and give Browning a nice target in the receiving corp.

Auburn Player To Watch: Kam Martin– With Kerryon Johnson now playing in the NFL, there are a few guys that can get the starting running back job for the Tigers and it makes sense to go with Kam Martin and he has the most experience out of anybody on the roster at the position. He’s a true sprinter with the skillset to break outside, run inside and he’s reliable in the passing game as well.

Final Analysis: This is an interesting game to kick off the season with Washington making a trip across the country to Georgia to face an Auburn team with the home-field advantage. What also caught my attention was the quarterback matchup between Jake Browning and Jarrett Stidham, two veterans at the position. It’s vital for Auburn’s offensive line to jell together and jell quickly because they can’t afford to figure things out up front against a Huskies team that will bring a lot of different looks. Washington needs to simply play its game which is playing efficient yet controlled offense while the defense will frustrate the opposition and keep them behind the chains.

Prediction: Washington 31 Auburn 21