SEATTLE – Junior Jacob Eason makes his debut as No. 12 Washington's quarterback when the team opens the season Saturday against visiting Eastern Washington. A transfer from Georgia, Eason outdueled sophomore Jake Haener for the starting job, with the latter announcing he was transferring the following day.
TV: 3 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network. LINE: Washington -21
The quarterback competition was close and spirited, but Eason's experience as a starter - including 12 games as a freshman in 2016 - helped him win the spot. "The physical stature is different than certainly the guys we've coached here," Huskies coach Chris Petersen, in his sixth season, told reporters of the 6-6 Eason. "So that's one thing that's a little bit different. He can see pretty good." The quarterback position isn't the only area in transition - the departed Jake Browning was a four-year starter - but the defensive unit lost five players to the NFL draft, so opportunity knocks for many of the younger players in the program. Eastern Washington is ranked No. 4 in the STATS FCS Top 25 poll after losing in last season's national championship game to North Dakota, which won the title for the seventh time in the last eight seasons.
ABOUT EASTERN WASHINGTON (2018: 12-3)
Junior quarterback Eric Barriere (2,450 yards, 24 passing touchdowns, eight rushing TDs in 2018) is one of the top FCS players in the country, but he is one of just nine returning starters (five on offense) as the Eagles attempt to reload on the fly. "We still have to mature as a football team," coach Aaron Best recently told reporters. "I don't think we are as close as we need to be from a maturation standpoint. We will be in adverse situations against Washington - I can guarantee you that. Hopefully, we have taken a step forward to be ready for those adverse situations, and to come out of those situations knowing we can make a positive out of a negative." Junior linebacker Chris Ojoh (105 tackles) and senior safety Dehonta Hayes (87) headline the defensive returnees.
ABOUT WASHINGTON (2018: 10-4)
Eason was a high school star in a suburb of Seattle before picking Georgia and lost his starting job with the Bulldogs as a sophomore due to a knee injury. The Huskies also are breaking in a new feature running back with Myles Gaskin (four straight 1,000-yard seasons) gone as junior Salvon Ahmed (608 rushing yards, seven touchdowns last season) is getting first crack as the starter. Senior safety Myles Bryant is the defense's top returning tackler (61), as well as being one of two returning starters - the only one from last season's standout five-starter secondary.
1. Washington won the previous two meetings, 30-27 in 2011 and 59-52 in 2014.
2. Eagles C Spencer Blackburn (37 straight starts) and T Kaleb Levao (18) were granted sixth years of eligibility by the NCAA due to injuries during their careers.
3. The Huskies have won 18 straight home non-conference games.
PREDICTION: Washington 37, Eastern Washington 24