ATLANTA – An early-season showdown between two marquee teams is on tap when No. 6 Washington faces No. 9 Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on Saturday in Atlanta. The Huskies are a combined 22-5 over the past two seasons, while Auburn is looking to post a second straight 10-win campaign.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: Auburn - 1.5
Washington was part of the College Football Playoff two seasons ago and the preseason belief is the Huskies must beat the Tigers to have a chance at making another visit.
"I think our guys are always excited to play," Huskies coach Chris Petersen told reporters. "They know how good Auburn is. They're not dumb. They've seen tape."
Tigers junior quarterback Jarrett Stidham sees the intersectional showdown as a terrific opportunity for both programs.
"It's going to be a great situation for us, a great situation for Washington," Stidham told reporters. "Whoever comes away with the win will have a little bit of an edge throughout the rest of the season. The good thing about this game, it doesn't have any conference implications. You should go and play this game, leave it all on the line, whether you're Auburn or Washington in my opinion. It's going to be a lot of fun."
ABOUT WASHINGTON (2017: 10-3)
Senior quarterback Jake Browning holds the school record of 78 touchdown passes, ranks second with 9,104 passing yards and has been intercepted just 24 times in 1,095 career attempts. Senior running back Myles Gaskin has topped 1,300 rushing yards in each of his three seasons and is just 52 yards away from surpassing the school career mark held by Napoleon Kaufman (4,106 from 1991-94).
The Huskies have a strong secondary featuring sophomore cornerback Byron Murphy (three interceptions in 2017) and junior free safety Taylor Rupp (five career picks) and also have two productive senior linebackers in Tevis Bartlett (team-high 12 tackles for loss last season) and Ben Burr-Kirven (team-best 84 tackles).
ABOUT AUBURN (2017: 10-4)
Stidham was just the second quarterback in school history to top 3,000 passing yards in a season as he finished with 3,158 and 18 touchdowns against six interceptions.
Junior Kam Martin (453 rushing yards last season) will have the first shot to replace departed Kerryon Johnson (1,391) as the feature back while senior wideout Ryan Davis looks to build on a superb 2017 campaign in which he caught a school-record 84 passes for 815 yards and five scores.
Junior defensive tackle Derrick Brown (nine tackles for loss last season), senior nose tackle Dontavius Russell (37 career starts) and senior inside linebacker Deshaun Davis (team-best 82 stops last season) are among the defensive stalwarts.
1. Washington and Auburn are meeting for the first time - the Huskies are 2-11 against teams currently in the SEC and the Tigers are 8-3 versus foes currently in the Pac-12.
2. The Tigers will be without junior WR Eli Stove (29 catches last season) and senior WR Will Hastings (26 receptions, 20.2 average) for the beginning of the campaign after both players tore ACLs in spring drills.
3. Gaskin needs 16 rushing touchdowns to surpass the Pac-12 career mark set by Oregon's Royce Freeman (60 from 2014-17).
PREDICTION: Washington 30, Auburn 27