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Q&A with SB Nation’s Ryan Priest: Rutgers vs. Washington


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Q&A with SB Nation’s Ryan Priest leading up to Rutgers University’s season opener against the Washington Huskies this afternoon.

1. There is a lot of hype surrounding Washington this year. They enter the season ranked No. 14. Do you think that’s about where they should be?

Washington’s No. 14 ranking is higher than what I had expected. In my mind, they’re better suited in to a preseason ranking in the 25 to 20 range.

2. QB Jake Browning is entering just his sophomore season, but he’s already one of the best at the position in the country. What are the expectations for him heading into this season?

As a true freshman, Browning did extremely well against mediocre and poor defenses, but struggled to move the ball effectively against top-end opponents. Most observers expect him to improve upon his less-than-impressive 16:10 TD/INT ratio and do a better job of connecting on deep-ball throws, as UW completed just 17 passing plays of 30 yards or more last season, tied for ninth in the conference.

3. Season opener at home against Rutgers. What comes to mind?

The thinking of most Washington fans reflects the Vegas line that favors Washington by 27 points. In other words, few expect Rutgers to make a competitive game out of Saturday’s contest. While the Scarlet Knights have some impressive players such as Janarion Grant, Darius Hamilton and Anthony Cioffi, it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to overcome a Washington defense that yielded just 4.9 yards per play last year in the offensively-minded Pac-12.

4. Should it concern Washington at all that Rutgers enters this season with a brand new coaching staff and new schemes? The Huskies won’t have much tape to review.

Facing off against a new coaching staff in their first game is always challenging, in no small part for the lack of tape that you mentioned. To help remedy that, Washington’s coaches have mentioned this week that they have used Ohio State and Houston film to prepare for Rutgers. From a UW perspective, the Huskies’ defensive calling card is playing fundamentally sound ball that forces opponents to take what is given to them while stringing together long, mistake-free drives. That philosophy won’t change on Saturday.

5. What aspect of the game do you think Washington should be able to take advantage of against Rutgers?

Washington’s defensive front seven has the potential to cause absolute fits for the Rutgers offensive line that has only 70 combined starts. In particular, Washington’s starting three defensive linemen (Greg Gaines, Vita Vea and Elijah Qualls) weigh in at a combined total of 971 pounds, and all have at least one year of meaningful playing experience on the Pac-12’s most stifling defense.

6. Is there any specific Rutgers player or position group that might cause problems for the Huskies?

The aforementioned Grant, Hamilton and Cioffi are all players that Washington will key on. In addition, Washington’s biggest question mark on the defensive side of the ball is who will generate the pass rush that outside linebackers Travis Feeney and Cory Littleton provided in 2015. If Rutgers’ offensive line is able to stand firm and hold their own at the line of scrimmage, it’s certainly possible that the offense will find a groove and score enough points on Saturday to make things interesting.

7. A home game at Husky Stadium. For visiting Rutgers fans, what should they expect?

For starters, they should expect to take in a game at perhaps the nation’s most scenic location. In addition, make sure to arrive early and take in the tailgating atmosphere at the E-1 parking lot, directly north of the stadium. Washington fans are a friendly bunch to visitors, so don’t hesitate to drop by and introduce yourselves at any one of the groups hanging out in the hours prior to the game.

8. Any specific traditions to look for?

The biggest tradition Washington fans partake in is what we affectionately know as “sailgating.” Husky Stadium’s unique location on the shores of Lake Washington make it possible for fans to commute to games via water, and the image of scores of boats tied up in the slips just outside of the stadium makes for an impressive sight from the stadium’s upper deck. If you make it to your seats in time for the player introductions, you’ll have a chance to see Dubs, Washington’s live Alaskan Malamute mascot, run out on the field. And the air raid siren that sounds after every Washington score is a unique experience.

9. Outside of the game itself, any tips for Rutgers fans visiting the area?

Seattle is renowned for its culinary options, many of which you can peruse here. Visiting Pike Place Market and seeing the world-famous Pike Place Fish Co. employees throw the day’s catch across the marketplace is great fun, and visiting the nearby original Starbucks location is a fun to-do item for any caffeine addict. In addition, the Space Needle offers breathtaking views of downtown and the Puget Sound, while taking a ferry trip from Seattle to nearby Bainbridge Island (or any other number of destinations) is a cheap and fun way to see parts of the Pacific Northwest you might otherwise be forced to miss.

10. Have a game prediction?

I have an expanded prediction here, but in short, I expect Washington’s offense to struggle to find a groove in the early going, which could create room for Rutgers to do some damage. However, I think that Washington’s defense is going to decisively control the game, especially in the second half when the unit’s depth will show. For a final score, I have Washington 31, Rutgers 13.

Rutgers vs. Washington starts at 2pm EST from Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. Watch the game on the PAC-12 Network.

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