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2016 Pac-12 preview countdown - #5 Washington: Huskies make strides but don’t fulfill lofty expectations

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NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The long torture of summer sports is almost over, but we still have a little ways to go. To get things ready, I went over every single game on the Pac-12 schedule in 2016 and predicted records for each team.

I'm going to countdown how I think the teams ultimately stack up in the final regular season standings with snapshots of each team.

#12 was Oregon State

#11 was Colorado

#10 was Cal

#9 was Arizona

#8 was Utah

#7 was Arizona State

#6 was Washington State

#5 is... Washington

Prediction: 9-3 (6-3) third in North

Bowl: Foster Farms Bowl vs. Wisconsin

Wins: Rutgers, Idaho, Portland State, at Arizona, Oregon State, at Utah, at Cal, Arizona State, at Washington State

Losses: Stanford, at Oregon, USC,

The preseason hype is blowing up for the Huskies as they have been rated in the Top 10 by Phil Steele and Sports Illustrated, but I think the Huskies will fall well short of those rankings. I think the Huskies are a lot closer to that Top 10 billing than their record might indicate, but a brutal conference schedule and some more growing pains they still have to go through on offense will limit their overall wins.

However, the Huskies will still take another step forward under Chris Petersen and with a win in their bowl, win as many games in a season as they have since 2000.

Non-Conference: This is probably the softest non-conference slate the Huskies have had in anyone who is still alive’s lifetime. It would be a disaster if they don’t start 3-0.

In-Conference: Washington’s in-conference schedule does them no favors in setting up for a big breakout season. I think they only win one of their opening trio of games before their bye week at Arizona (even that will be very tough) before succumbing to their division rivals Stanford and Oregon.

Things get easier for the Huskies after that gauntlet as I think they can win the rest of their games until mid-November when things toughen up again. A home test against USC on what should be a cold November day has the chance to be a tough win, but USC should be hell-bent on revenge and the Huskies rarely beat the Trojans. I have a hard time predicting it, but I think the Huskies can grind out another Apple Cup and get themselves in a position where they are one win away from 10 going into their bowl.

How Will This Feel In December?

I think a lot of realistic Husky fans may see an 8-9 win season coming, but I would be worried about the portion of the fanbase whose expectations have been skyrocketed by preseason media hype. I think realistic people in camp Husky will see the season as a mild disappointment, but an overall success that pushed the Huskies one step closer back to being where they once were and sets up a huge potential run in 2017. I think the less in-touch Husky fans might really struggle with less than 10 regular season wins, but they will ultimately be encouraged by seeing a Husky team that wins as many games as they have in a long, long time that looks the part of a potential Playoff contender in 2017.