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Washington Huskies underrated? Are they the sleeper in the Pac-12

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The Washington Huskies haven't gotten much love from the national media due to some roster questions and a new coach. But there is still a lot of talent in Seattle and a new coach could be exactly what they need.

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Zero-point-seven percent is the number given to the Washington Huskies chances of winning the Pac-12 by ESPN. Zero-point-seven. That doesn't sound like much, because it isn't.

It's understandable why the UW's chances are so low. The Oregon Ducks and Stanford Cardinal are the two powers of the North Division and the USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins have emerged as the favorites in the South.

To compound the strong conference, the Huskies have some questions with their roster.

Quarterback -and Denver-area native- Cyler Miles will be suspended for the opener against Hawaii because of an off-field incident after the Super Bowl. Washington's three-best offensive players, Bishop Sankey, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins and Keith Price, are either in the NFL or graduated. The secondary has only one returning starter, junior cornerback Marcus Peters.

But those roster questions have been put on the back burner in Seattle. There is another question that is much more looming, much more curious. And that, of course, is the new head coach, Chris Petersen.

Long respected as one of the best coaches in the country, Petersen is about to start his first season as the boss of a Power-5 Conference team. Petersen's seven years at Boise State were nothing if they weren't entertaining. He won two Fiesta Bowls and went to Seattle with an overall 92-12 record, including a 2-0 mark against the UW's chief rival Oregon.

The first question about Petersen was his ability to recruit well at the major conference level. He succeeded in staggering fashion. Due to USC coach Steve Sarkisian's sudden departure, many recruits recommitted to Washington and recommitted to USC or other schools. The UW's recruiting class was rated the worst in the Pac-12 at that time.

But Petersen proved he knows what he's doing.

He secured some commitments from players he recruited at Boise State, namely Will Dissly, an underrated defensive lineman from Montana, Greg Gaines, another d-lineman from the L.A. area, and Drew Sample, a tight end from in-state. I haven't even mentioned the high-profile recruits like Budda Baker from nearby football factory Bellevue, quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels and cornerback Naijel Hale, who happens to be the son of late rapper/singer Nate Dogg. Needless to say, the rating jumped from the bottom of the conference to the top. The question was answered.

The second question now that we are close to his first season is can he continue the forward momentum created by Sarkisian and his staff. The defense should still be one of the best in the conference this season. They return most of their front seven, including Preseason All-American Shaq Thompson and last year's sack-leader Hau'oli Kikaha and Peters. Dissly is going to instantly contribute on the defensive front, and Baker and Hale will earn major playing time in the secondary.

The offense, however, is a bit of an unknown at this point. Because Miles is suspended for the opener - and all of spring ball - redshirt sophomore Jeff Lindquist and redshirt freshman Troy Williams have split reps at quarterback and a starter is not yet to be named. They will have to replace their running back after Sankey had the best statistical season for any Washington running back.

So we come back to 0.7 percent. Is that a fair number? Perhaps, due to all of the unknowns surrounding the program right now. But I think the Huskies will surprise people this year. The two games I'll be heavily anticipating are October 18, when Washington plays at Oregon, and November 8, when UCLA comes to Seattle.

Don't sleep on the Huskies.