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Washington Huskies Offensive Players to Watch vs. Texas Longhorns in Sugar Bowl

The Washington Huskies feature the FBS' top passing offense heading into its Sugar Bowl matchup against the Texas Longhorns.

The eyes of Texas are upon Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. as the Longhorns touch down in New Orleans.

No one is even trying to hide their opinions as they marvel at the Huskies star passer.

"I can’t really compare him to other guys,” Longhorns linebacker David Gbenda said earlier this week. “He has a unique skill set of his own, with the way he’s able to make certain throws and just command this offense to get them where they are. Mad kudos to him for being able to do what he does."

Penix, the nation's leader in passing yards, has a knack for keeping defenses on their toes. Yes, his whirlwind passes carry that sort of weight, but it's his ability to change the game's outcome on any given that has the hairs on the back of one's neck at full mast.

The No. 2 Huskies (13-0) look to continue their undefeated season in the College Football Playoff semifinal against the No. 3 Longhorns (12-1). Their defense will need to be ready for Quinn Ewers and company, but the same could be uttered when talking about Penix and his posse.

Micheal Penix Jr. in the 2022 Alamo Bowl 

Micheal Penix Jr. in the 2022 Alamo Bowl 

No. 9 might have been a Heisman finalist and human highlight reel, but there's more to Washington's offense than a prolific passer. The Huskies feature three future NFL receivers, a serviceable running back, and an offensive line that won the Joe Moore Award this past fall.

For Texas, stopping Penix behind the line of scrimmage is one thing, but what else needs to happen? What if Penix wins downfield and connects with a pass-catcher in coverage?

Here are the players to watch on Washington's offense down in Bayou of Sugar Bowl Dr.

QB Michael Penix Jr.

What else needs to be said on Penix? He's like a regular at Cheers Pub, where everyone knows his name, accolades, and capability when commanding the huddle.

While Penix did post monster numbers in wins over Stanford, Utah and Arizona, he still helped the Huskies secure an undefeated season. His 65.5 completion percentage is the highest success rate by a Washington quarterback since Jake Browning in 2017. His 33 touchdowns are the most by a Husky since Browning's run to the CFP in 2016.

Penix won't run much but can beat you with his legs. He scored three rushing touchdowns, including two against USC and Utah. Penix will also maneuver outside the pocket to extend plays and give receivers a second chance to win in coverage.

RB Dillon Johnson

A transfer from Mississippi State, Johnson was a hit-and-miss most of the season. When off, he was ice cold. When on, good luck stopping the tailback in the open field.

Even with the No. 46 rushing offense, Johnson totaled over 1,000 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per run. His 256-yard performance against USC paved the way to a 10-point win. And against Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, Johnson's 152 yards munched down the clock and put the Ducks on the hot seat.

WR Rome Odunze

There are playmakers, and then there is Odunze. Few defensive backs have been able to slow down the man with over 1,400 receiving yards to his name. Even fewer have been able to blanket him entirely.

Odunze posted 10 100-yard receiving performances this past fall. LSU's Malik Nabers, who led the country in yards, was the only player to come close with nine. When Penix has been under duress, No. 1 is the No. 1 option for the passing game.

A swift route-runner, cornerbacks have to be on notice for the double moves. Odunze's straight-line speed also causes damage after the catch, as evident in games against Utah and Oregon State.

WR Ja'Lynn Polk

One of two 1,000-yard playmakers for the Huskies, Polk stepped up starting in Week 3 in place of Jalen McMillan. Seeing reps both on the boundary and the slot, the sophomore consistently was the secondary option, looking for reasons for people to doubt his No. 1 prowess.

Washington was one of three schools with two 1K playmakers. Polk's 6-2 frame allows him to win at the point of attack and bring down contested catches. With a healthy McMillan, expect him to line up on the outside opposite Odunze.

TE Jack Westover

While known more for his blocking technique, Westover is a reliable red zone weapon. He totaled 35 catches for 342 yards and four scores in 2023, three of which came from inside the 20-yard line. Westover also has been effective on third-and-short plays, so he could be a name to monitor on blitzes as a delayed route-runner.