UCLA football 2017 schedule preview: Washington

Chris Petersen led Washington to the College Football Playoff in his third year as the program’s head coach. (Ted S. Warren AP)

UCLA at Washington
Saturday, Oct. 28 | Husky Stadium

Jim Mora once said the head coaching job at Washington was his “dream job.” In 2014, the UCLA head coach passed on the chance to return to his alma mater, which cleared the way for Chris Petersen to take the job. Three years later, Petersen’s Huskies are coming off a College Football Playoff berth and their first conference title in 16 years.

The Huskies (12-2, 8-1 Pac-12 last year) reached the Pac-12’s pinnacle and now are fighting to stay there. UW’s success cost the team four early entrants in the 2017 NFL Draft, including star wide receiver John Ross (ninth overall pick) and second-round defensive backs Budda Baker and Sidney Jones, and two assistant coaches, who were hired by NFL teams.

“To me, it is much harder to stay up near the top than get there,” Petersen told the Seattle Times. “These guys don’t know that, but I do. So that’ll be the next step.

Game storylines

— First major test: The Huskies have one of the weakest schedules in the country so their first major test may be when UCLA comes to Seattle on Oct. 28. After a nonconference slate that features two FBS teams that combined for three wins in 2016 and Montana, an FCS team from the Big Sky, the Huskies start conference play on the road against a Colorado team that lost eight starters from its Pac-12-South-winning defense. UW then has Oregon State, California and Arizona State and a bye week before the Bruins come to town.

— Next men up: The Huskies lost five defensive players to the NFL Draft, including three star defensive backs, but have reinforcements on the way. Junior Jordan Miller and redshirt freshman Byron Murphy are slated to take over as starting cornerbacks Junior Jaylen Johnson will team with returning starters Vita Vea and Greg Gaines on the defensive line.

— Rosen vs. Browning: The two quarterbacks were the first true freshmen to start a season opener at quarterback for their respective schools, but have not faced each other yet due to the rotation of the Pac-12 schedule. While Jake Browning’s career blossomed last year, Josh Rosen’s halted with a midseason shoulder injury. This season’s matchup might be the only one they have in college before NFL teams come calling.

Players to watch

— QB Jake Browning: The junior from Folsom quarterbacked the Pac-12’s top-scoring offense last year and finished seventh in the nation in passing efficiency. He earned conference offensive player of the year honors after passing for 3,430 yards and 43 touchdowns on only nine interceptions. Browning had offseason shoulder surgery on his throwing shoulder. He suffered the injury on Nov. 19, but played through it while leading the Huskies to the College Football Playoff.

— RB Myles Gaskin: Gaskin is the Pac-12’s leading returner rusher with 98.1 yards on the ground per game last year. The junior earned first-team all-conference honors after rushing for a second straight 1,000-yard season. His 1,373 yards were the eighth-most in a single season in UW history.

— LB Azeem Victor: UW lost several stars from last year’s Pac-12 leading defense, but held on to Victor, who returned for his senior year after breaking his leg in November. Despite missing three games, he still finished as UW’s third-leading tackler with 67 and was named first-team All-Pac-12 for the first time.

Washington in a GIF

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UCLA 2017 schedule

Sun., Sept. 3: Texas A&M at UCLA, 4:30 p.m. PT, FOX/FOX Deportes
Sat., Sept. 9: Hawai’i at UCLA, 2 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Networks
Sat., Sept. 16: UCLA at Memphis, 9 a.m. PT, ABC/ESPN2 mirror
Sat., Sept. 23: UCLA at Stanford
Sat., Sept. 30: Colorado at UCLA
Sat., Oct. 7: BYE
Sat., Oct. 14: UCLA at Arizona
Sat., Oct. 21: Oregon at UCLA
Sat., Oct. 28: UCLA at Washington
Fri., Nov. 3: UCLA at Utah, 6:30 p.m. PT, FS1/FOX Deportes
Sat., Nov. 11: Arizona State at UCLA
Sat., Nov. 18: UCLA at USC
Fri. Nov. 24: California at UCLA, 7:30 p.m. FS1/FOX Deportes
Fri., Dec. 1 or Sat., Dec. 2: Pac-12 Football Championship Game