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2013 Opponent Previews: Washington

The Huskies shocked Stanford last year. Will they be able to repeat the feat at Stanford Stadium?

Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE

Going out on a limb here, but you might remember Stanford's last meeting with Washington.

The Cardinal was riding high, fresh off what appeared to be an enormous upset of then-No. 2 USC (yep, less than a year ago, people thought USC was one of the top two teams in the nation). The defense had asserted itself as a force to be reckoned with, and offensively Josh Nunes appeared to be "game manager" enough to get the job done (205 passing yards per game, 6 TDs, 3 INTs in first three games).

Then this happened. Ok, so that may not have been the most important play of the game, but it is the one that sticks out to me as a symbol of how that game went. Despite a mostly dominant performance from the defense (Trent Murphy singlehandedly outscored the Huskies offense until the last play of the third quarter), Stanford could not close the deal against a good-but-not-nearly-that-good Washington team in Seattle. The Cardinal offense put up a paltry 238 total yards, the program's fewest since the Tavita Pritchard days, and the defense surrendered two late touchdowns as Stanford fell in a nationally televised Thursday night upset 17-13.

Washington went on to have an up-and-down season, following the Stanford upset with three straight losses, then four straight wins, then a pair of losses. There was good (an upset win over Oregon State), bad (a 35-point thrashing at Arizona), and appallingly ugly (blowing an 18-point lead with 11 minutes to play to lose the Apple Cup). When all was said and done, the Huskies ended the season 7-6 for the third straight year, including a second consecutive frustrating bowl loss.

Folks in Seattle expect UDub to take the next step this season and contend with the big boys, and another upset over Stanford in the Huskies' first real road test of the season would be a big notch in their belt.

2012 record: 7-6, 5-4 Pac-12. Finished the year with a 28-26 loss to Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.

What to expect from the Huskies in 2013: Washington is receiving votes in both preseason polls (good enough for 34th and T43rd in the AP and USA Today polls, respectively), so expectations are for a pretty big year. Of course, the Huskies received even more votes last year (27th and 26th) before fizzling to a USC-esque 7-6. So Washington fans are not about to go jumping for joy for a couple votes before the games have been played. After a big-time rematch against Boise State at the newly renovated Husky Stadium, Washington gets a little breather before an incredibly daunting three-game stretch at Stanford, vs. Oregon, and at Arizona State. If the Huskies have any hope of getting to nine wins, we'll know by mid-October.

Best player: Quarterback Keith Price. Ok, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins might be Washington's most talented player, but the Huskies need Price to be the man in order to have any shot at contending with Stanford and Oregon. Plus I hear tight ends have a hard time catching passes if their quarterbacks can't throw. So it really comes back to the senior Price, who burst onto the scene with a stellar sophomore season in 2011 (3,000 yards passing, 33 TDs), capped by a 400-yard, seven-touchdown (four passing, three rushing) performance in the Arena League scrimmage that was the 2011 Alamo Bowl.

But then 2012 came around, and Price took a step back instead of the widely expected step forward. True, he no longer got to face the Baylor defense, but a 19-13 touchdown-to-interception ratio is not exactly lighting the world on fire, particularly when five of those 19 TDs came against Colorado. He threw the ball more, gained fewer yards, threw for fewer touchdowns, and tossed more interceptions than in 2011, and he was even worse when his team needed him, throwing six touchdowns and 10 interceptions in the Huskies' six losses and accounting for only three total touchdowns in his team's four single-digit wins.

Still, Price undeniably has talent, and reports from camp seem to indicate that he is ready to bounce back from his 2012 struggles and fulfill his potential as a senior.

Prediction vs Stanford: Washington has a good team with a good quarterback and a good coach. Good teams occasionally pull upsets at home, particularly when their opponent is coming off an emotional high and still figuring out its offense. Unfortunately for the Huskies, they must travel to Stanford Stadium this year, and when they arrive, they will see a team that is not going to overlook them this year. The Cardinal is simply better on both sides of the ball, should be the more motivated squad, and has the schedule advantage along with the home-field advantage (Stanford has this game in between Washington State and Utah, while the Huskies follow the Cardinal with Oregon and Arizona State). Stanford should win by at least two touchdowns.

Best random fact about Washington: Tons of athletes went to UDub, but you probably already knew that. Much more importantly, Ken Jennings, Rainn Wilson (Dwight from "The Office"), and one of the co-founders of Costco graduated from Washington. But before you feel bad about not making millions of dollars on a game show or inventing the greatness of Costco berry smoothies, just remember this: