A sense of excitement that Seattle hasn’t had in some time is fueling the Washington Huskies football program, which this week debuted in the 2022 NCAA Top 25 at No. 18 after a 39-28 win over No. 11 Michigan State last week.
The Huskies (3-0) look to continue their winning streak to start the Pac-12 season this Saturday when they host Stanford at Husky Stadium in a night game.
Two years ago, Washington was unable to play in the Pac-12 championship game because its roster was decimated by COVID cases. The team went 4-8 overall last season and head coach Jimmy Lake was fired in November following an incident involving a player on the team.
But this season looks different. Washington has 136 points through its first three games, even though the first two were at home against Kent State and FCS Portland State.
“The realization that there are so many things that could have been even better than what happened Saturday night,” Huskies head coach Cullen DeBoer said. “So I know we’ve got a group of guys that felt so early on that this could be where we’re at. And now they see days on top of days, practice on practice, and now games on top of games. They are in a good place. But we can’t get enough of ourselves.”
Washington is led by quarterback Michael Penix Jr., a transfer from Indiana. Penix passed for 10 touchdowns and won Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors after he passed for 397 yards, the eighth-highest single-game total in school history, against Michigan State.
Stanford (1-1) had a bye last weekend. The Cardinal already played in conference play, losing 41-28 at home to current No. 7 USC. Saturday is the second of three straight games against potential top-25 teams, with Washington this week and current No. 15 Oregon on Oct. 1.
According to Stanford Athletics, the Cardinal has 29 wins against nationally ranked opponents under head coach David Shaw. Five of those have come against Washington, and Stanford is 5-1 when facing a top-25 Huskies team.
In his career, Shaw is 7-4 against Washington. He called Washington a good football team that plays fast and with a lot of confidence.
“It’s not an insurmountable challenge, but at the same time, there’s football we can play that’s a lot higher than we’ve played this year,” Shaw said. “So that’s our focus.”
The Cardinals are led by running back AJ Smith, who has 206 yards and three touchdowns in two games. But he will not play on Saturday because of his health.
Shaw hopes Smith can play next week at Oregon.
Quarterback Tanner McKee has three touchdown passes and three interceptions in two games this season. He completed 42 of 62 passes for 528 yards.
The Huskies and Cardinal are 44-44-4 when they face each other.