The Washington Huskies and Auburn Tigers converge at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. This is typically the biggest game of the week, and if you go through the Week 1 schedule, it’s certainly the best game on paper. Washington goes into Atlanta ranked 6th in the nation. They get signal-caller, Jake Browning, back to lead the offense for head coach Chris Petersen.
Browning is the best quarterback Petersen has had to work with since Kellen Moore at Boise State. Browning is taller than Moore, but displays a similar skillset. I never thought Moore was when he was lighting up defenses for 50 wins in his college career, nor do I think Browning is an NFL quarterback. Nevertheless, Browning is a decent enough Pac-12 quarterback, and with the running game and defense, he doesn’t have to do it all himself.
However, to be a national contender going to the College Football Playoff, I’d say that they need Browning to perform at an elite level of play. Washington has the defense and they have one of the best runners in the nation, Myles Gaskin. Gaskin will be one of the first running backs taken off the board in the next draft.
Washington needs this game badly right out of the gate to prove that they are worthy of being with the top teams. The Huskies went 10-3 in 2017 which isn’t good enough in college football. They concluded the year with a 35-27 loss against Penn State. And that’s the problem, Washington have looked good against decent competition, but the elite schools they often have problems with. Their best win a season ago was against Oregon and Washington State. Washington State was the only ranked team they played in the regular season, so here’s their opportunity to show that they belong. Head below for our free Washington vs. Auburn pick in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
Washington Huskies vs. Auburn Tigers Betting Odds:
vs. Auburn -2(-115)
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Washington vs. Auburn Pick:
There was a bit of a transition period for Browning and the Washington offense. John Ross leaving to the NFL took away a dynamic deep threat for the Huskies. Browning had fun throwing it deep to Ross, who would just outrun the secondary and go and catch the ball. It wasn’t the most difficult play for Browning to make, hitting Ross on a post pattern deep. Browning still had Dante Pettis last season, though, who provided Washington with a lift in the absence of Ross. Pettis was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in April, so that’s another weapon gone for Browning.
Browning went from throwing a whopping 43 touchdowns in 2017 to only 19 touchdowns in 2017. That’s the John Ross effect. However, they do return seven starters and bring back an impressive offensive line. The offensive line is going to be the strong point of the Huskies’ offense. They’re going to need a deep threat to emerge, though. At the moment, there isn’t anyone that can stretch the defense.
The Washington defense is likely to be strong again. Greg Gaines should be a formidable force on the defensive line. With the loss of Vita Vea to the NFL, Gaines is going to be the focal point of the Washington defense up front. They are going to need every pound of weight against the Auburn offense. The Tigers have a knack of wearing opponents out, including Alabama in the 2017 Iron Bowl.
Kerryon Johnson, Auburn’s lead back from a year ago is with the Detroit Lions now, but they’re still going to be a force. Auburn is a team that just reloads running backs. They’ve had a 1,000-yard rusher in nine straight seasons. Kam Martin, who averaged 6.1 yards per carry behind Kerryon, will have the lead role in the backfield in 2018.
He will likely hit 1,000 yards and be the 10th. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham who will attract NFL attention is back for the Tigers. He threw for 18 touchdowns and 6 interceptions on 66.5% completions. Stidham is one of the best, if not the best, in the SEC and his numbers are impressive for a guy playing in that defensive based conference.
What I think is going to be tough for Washington in this game is cracking the Auburn defensive front. The Huskies bring back a burly, talented offensive line, but Auburn counters with possibly the best defensive line in the country. Marlon Davidson, Derrick Brown, and Dontavius Russell are all back and should cause havoc for the Huskies in this one. There are heavy expectations for Washington this season. However, I don’t know if I have them ahead of the top teams in the SEC. A lack of a deep threat could hurt them here. They will have issues with Auburn up front, so a receiving threat would have helped considerably. I always side with a good defensive line against a good offensive line. Also, keep in mind that Washington has to fly across the country, while Auburn is a short trip to Atlanta. The Huskies are a fancy pick in this matchup, but I give the edge to Stidham and the Auburn Tigers.