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Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Washington a title contender?

By Kevin Gemmell

Who is the team poised to challenge Oregon and Stanford (or Stanford and Oregon, people get picky about which order they are written in) for the Pac-12 title?

ASU? Maybe.

UCLA? Possible.

USC? Can't ever count them out.

But what about Washington? According to ESPN Insider KC Joyner, the Huskies might have the best shot Insider of the second-tier teams to make some noise and shake up the standings. Joyner lays out a series of statistically-backed arguments, and then reaches this conclusion:
All of these signs point toward Washington improving upon its 5-4 conference mark from last season, which dovetails with what could be a decline by Stanford and Oregon.

No team in college football returns a lower percentage of receptions (17.9 percent), and no team lost more sacks to graduation/early NFL draft entry than the Cardinal (44.5). Oregon may also take a step back since it lost head coach Chip Kelly, the architect of the program's ascension, to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Those losses could very well lead to a situation in which a 6-3 or 7-2 conference mark could tie for the Pac-12 North Division lead at season's end. This won't be easy for the Huskies to reach, given that they do have a tough Pac-12 road schedule, with visits to Stanford, Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon State. However, if they can manage a 1-3 or 2-2 record in those games, the home-field advantage may be enough to vault this club to six or seven conference wins and thus give Washington a solid shot at winning the Pac-12 North Division crown.

As previously documented on the Pac-12 blog, the Huskies have a ton of production returning in the ground and air attacks. And we know the defense made big strides last year in its first season under Justin Wilcox -- both statistically and mentally.

I've said it before, I'll say it again tomorrow morning in Washington's Hope & Concern video, and I'll continue to say it until Boise State comes to town on Aug. 31 -- that game will have huge ramifications for the trajectory of Washington's season.

But for now, those of you with super-cool Insider access, allow Joyner to get your hopes up. We'll know at approximately 10:30 p.m. PT on Aug. 31 if all of the preseason hype is justified.