Though Michigan's football season officially kicks off on September 4 against Western Michigan in Ann Arbor, most Michigan fans are already looking ahead toward the week two matchup between the Wolverines and Washington Huskies.
Here's everything you need to know about Michigan's big-time week two opponent.
2020 record: 3-1 (3-1 Pac-12)
Returning starters: Offense: 7, Defense: 8
Head Coach: Jimmy Lake (2nd Season)
- Jaxson Kirkland, OL: 6-7, 310-pound senior,2020 All-Pac-12 First Team, projected first-round NFL Draft pick in 2022.
- Cade Otton, TE: 6-5, 240-pound senior, First-team All-Pac-12 selection, Three-year and 27-game starter for Huskies, John Mackey Award semifinalist, Caught 18 passes for 258 yards and 3 scores in 4 games during the 2020 season and has 63 career catches.
- Edefuan Ulofoshio, LB: 6-2, 250 pound junior. Here's what Pro Football Focus had to say about Ulofoshio: "Across 452 snaps since 2019, Ulofoshio has posted a grade above 82.0 against the run, as a pass-rusher and in coverage. No one else in the Power Five accomplished the feat in that span. His tackling is no issue, either, as he missed just five times across 93 career attempts, forming a 5.4% missed tackle rate that ranks third among Power Five linebackers."
Washington is projected as one of the favorites to capture the Pac 12 title in 2021, and it'll likely enter Michigan Stadium on September 11 as a top-25 team. In fact, Phil Steele, publisher of the Phil Steele College Football Preview magazine, named Washington as a Top-10 team heading into 2021 - placing the Huskies at No. 9 overall. On the flip side, Michigan is currently 11-16 against top-25 teams and just 2-12 against top-10 teams during the Harbaugh era.
The Huskies have a decision to make at the quarterback position after signing one of the top quarterbacks in the 2021 class, Sam Huard, and returning sophomore quarterback Dylan Morris who tossed for 897 yards and four touchdowns in 2020. Terrell Bynum, a fifth-year junior from Long Beach (Calif.), leads the group of returning receivers with 39 career catches for 498 yards and two touchdowns - along with 79 yards rushing yards.
Speaking of the wide receiver group for Washington, former Wolverine Giles Jackson will make his first appearance in the Big House since announcing his transfer back in March. Though Jackson looked like a star in the making for the Wolverines early, reports began to surface that he was unhappy about being passed up on the depth chart after a lackluster sophomore campaign in 2020. Given how talented he is, there's every reason to believe that Jackson will do everything he can to be a factor on September 11.
Defensively, Washington has three NFL prospects in cornerbacks Trent McDuffie and Kyler Gordon, along with linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio. McDuffie, a junior out of Westminster (Calif.), is another projected first-round NFL Draft pick that could pose big problems for the Wolverines - particularly with an inexperienced quarterback behind center.
In addition to the talent, the Huskies will enter the 2021 season eager to prove that they're the top team in the Pac-12 conference - particularly given the way that 2020 came to an end. As noted by Kyle Kensing of Athlon Sports, the Huskies had the top winning percentage in the Pac-12 North, but were ultimately denied a shot at the 2020 conference title due to COVID-19 protocols.
"Washington has plenty of reason to play with a chip on its shoulder in 2021. That could be a serious problem for the rest of the Pac-12. The Huskies are loaded on defense and will continue to employ the physical brand of football that buoyed the program during Chris Petersen’s tenure. If the offense comes together, this might be the conference’s team to beat in 2021.”
Overall, Washington is expected to present Michigan with one of its toughest challenges of the 2021 season. For Michigan, the outcome could very well serve as the proverbial 'fork in the road' for how the remainder of the season will play out.
Michigan is currently 11-16 against top-25 teams during the Harbaugh era.