Sep. 5 LSU Sep. 12 Idaho Sep. 19 USC Sep. 26 at Stanford Oct. 3 at Notre Dame Oct. 10 Arizona Oct. 17 at Arizona State Oct. 24 Oregon Nov. 7 at UCLA Nov. 14 at Oregon State Nov. 28 Washington State Dec. 5 California
1. Locker on target: Quarterback Jake Locker has been dogged by questions about his passing accuracy. He answered them during spring, particularly in the spring game when he completed 16 of 18 throws and the two incompletions were drops. If Locker, with his running ability, can complete more than 60 percent of his passes, the Huskies offense will make a dramatic turnaround from its woeful 2008.
2. Savannah brings it: E.J. Savannah, banished without sufficient explanation by Tyrone Willingham, was brought back this spring by new coach Steve Sarkisian and his contribution should be a huge upgrade to what looks like a solid corps of linebackers. Savannah had 111 tackles in 2007 and will bolster the confidence of a defense that was stunningly soft in 2008.
3. Might run OK: The Huskies' offensive line was supposed to be a strength last season, but it looked fat and plodding and struggled against quick front sevens. A new strength program aimed at slimming the hogs down, combined with some intriguing talent at tailback -- freshmen Chris Polk and Demitrius Bronson stood out -- suggests that Locker won't be the only weapon in the ground game.
1. Does experience mean better? The good news is the Huskies welcome back 18 starters. The bad news is the Huskies welcome back 18 starters. That's the only way to look at a team that went 0-12 the year before. There are reasons for optimism -- Locker; a new, high-energy coaching staff; etc. -- but Huskies fans have seen their optimism crushed under the spiked heel of reality before.
2. Secondary issues: The Huskies pass defense was terrible last year, ranking 115th in the nation and last among BCS programs. Opponents completed 67 percent of their passes, 24 of which went for touchdowns and just seven were intercepted. Quinton Richardson is set at one corner, and strong safety Nate Williams is solid, but free safety and the other cornerback spot are wide open heading into the fall.
3. Kicking and punting: The Huskies must replace both starting specialists. Erik Folk, a scholarship kicker, has had injury problems but, if healthy, should win the job. Since there are no scholarship punters, fingers are crossed that incoming JC transfer Will Mahan will be the man this fall.