Ask almost anyone associated with the University of Washington football program, and they’ll tell you that head coach Steve Sarkisian is a man with a definite plan. Known for his calm and confident demeanor as a quarterback at BYU, Sarkisian is an ambitious leader who favors the Xs and Os in a wide-open, pro-style attack.
After three consecutive 7-6 seasons in Seattle, however, Sarkisian is starting to feel the heat from UW boosters. The Huskies were expected to ascend to the top 25 last season, but they opened 3-4 with a difficult schedule and lost their final two games. Expect Sarkisian’s team to be hungry when they visit Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., on Oct. 19 to face Arizona State.
Washington has the talent to make some noise nationally in 2013, but Sarkisian has to get quarterback Keith Price back on track after a disappointing year. The defense flourished under Justin Wilcox last season, and the Huskies can expect even more improvement with seven starters returning to the squad.
Getting over the 7-6 hump won’t be easy in the competitive Pac-12 North, but Washington does have some luck in its schedule this year with a slightly weaker non-conference slate and the benefit of missing USC from the South draw. The Huskies also have the benefit of playing five of nine conference games at home. Still, the road schedule is a tough one with all four Pac-12 road games looking like major hurdles.
The middle of the season will be a particularly tough challenge for Sarkisian’s troops, as they will have to face two conference heavyweights in consecutive weeks in early October, playing at Stanford and then hosting Oregon. Washington also has difficult back-to-back road games late in the year at UCLA and Oregon State.
The Washington coaching staff no doubt recognizes the importance of a fast start to the season, but finds itself hosting perennial BCS buster Boise State to kick off the 2013 campaign. A lose in this critical tone-setting game could derail the Huskies’ plans for a return to national prominence.