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Get To Know The Opponent: Washington

NCAA Football: Kent State at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 11/9 Michigan State (2-0) heads to Seattle to take on Washington (2-0) this Saturday for its first Power Five matchup of the 2022 season. This game should be a true road test and a barometer for where the Spartans stand this season, much like its tilt with Miami (FL.) a year ago.

School: University of Washington

Nickname: Huskies

Location: Seattle, Washington

Head Coach: Kalen DeBoer (first season) comes from Fresno State after a 9-3 campaign in his second season with the Bulldogs.

Series History: Washington leads 2-1. MSU got the best of its Saturday counterpart in 1969, but Washington has won the last two matchups, including the last meeting in 1997 in the Aloha Bowl.

Many East Coast and fair-weather college football fans may not know much about the Huskies — and many also wonder why Washington (-3) is now favored to win, according to DraftKings.

Players to watch

Most notably, the Huskies acquired a highly-skilled transfer in Michael Penix Jr., the former dual-threat quarterback from Indiana. He’s thrown at nearly a 70 percent clip (69.7 percent through two games) for six touchdowns coming into a matchup featuring a secondary attempting to shed Michigan State’s porous reputation after posting the nation’s worst pass defense last year. Washington also posts the nation’s third-best average of 571 offensive yards per game.

Former Michigan wideout Giles Jackson leads Washington with 237 all-purpose yards, proving himself as a receiver and a capable return man. As another note, current Michigan State true freshman wide receiver Germie Bernard was briefly enrolled at Washington before coming to East Lansing in January.

Pregame Trends

Michigan State opened as the favorite (-1), but that line has now “crossed the bridge” that is seemingly seldom recrossed. This could be in part due to Spartan quarterback Payton Thorne’s looking out of sync through two games, posting a 57.7 percent completion rate, although the second-year starter began to show flashes of last year on deep balls.

Washington’s position as the favorite might also credit mounting injuries for MSU, as fifth-year senior safety Xavier Henderson and redshirt receiver senior Jayden Reed’s availability are unknown, along with junior linebacker Darius Snow being out for the year.

However, Washington sits outside the top-50 in the nation in rush yards allowed per contest with 114 yards per game. This bodes well for MSU, which has continued its emphasis of the ground game with redshirt sophomore Jalen Berger leading the charge (227 yards on 6.7 yards per carry with four touchdowns) and Jarek Broussard (135 yards on 5.4 yards per carry and two touchdowns).


Michigan State has tangibly improved its pass rush from a year ago, currently leading the nation in sacks with 12, and transfers on the defensive line as well as the defensive backfield have seemingly improved the Spartans’ pass defense. How much it has improved remains to be seen Saturday, but expect MSU’s passing game to return to form and its running game to remain steady and control the ball, while its defense disrupts Washington’s passing attack for the first time this season.