UW Huskies report card: Five reasons for optimism, five reasons for concern as Pac-12 play begins

In many ways, the Huskies’ season is playing out much like it did through three games last year.

Washington is ranked No. 7 in the AP Top 25 poll, it is 3-0 and heading out the road for its Pac-12 opener.

A quarter of the way through the 2017 season, here is a look at where things stand as the Huskies prepare to visit Colorado on Saturday:

Five reasons for optimism

1. Jake Browning

He’s healthy. He’s productive. He’s good. In about eight quarters, the junior QB has thrown eight touchdowns, ran for another and had one turnover. He ranks in the top 10 nationally in quarterback rating (191.58), completion percentage (74.4) and yards per pass attempt (10.2).

2. Middle men

We already knew about Keishawn Bierria and Azeem Victor. They’re the stars in the middle of UW’s defense, the heartbeat of what the Huskies want to be — tough, technical, disciplined. And now, here’s Ben Burr-Kirven joining the middle-linebacker rotation, leading the team in tackles (with 27) and making the Huskies’ strength even stronger. With Greg Gaines and Vita Vea in the middle of the line, and Taylor Rapp and Jojo McIntosh in the middle of the secondary, the defense is as solid as ever at its core.

3. Dante Pettis

What else can we say about Pettis? The Huskies have scored 15 touchdowns — and he has six of them, including a punt-return TD in three consecutive games. He has been everything the Huskies could have asked for from their new No. 1 receiver. He even threw a 36-yard pass on the Huskies’ first snap against Fresno State. “Dante can do it all,” coach Chris Petersen said. “We might have him start kicking field goals and punting as well.”

4. The elite secondary

What’s not to like so far from the new-look defensive backfield? Byron Murphy had two interceptions in his UW debut, Myles Bryant is the defense’s new Swiss Army knife, Jordan Miller is a mean as they come at corner, and Rapp, McIntosh and Ezekiel Turner are punishers in the back. “It’s been awesome to see,” co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said Tuesday. “When you throw six freshmen out there that have never played college football — three true freshmen, three redshirt freshmen, and they’re fairly productive and we don’t have a lot of mistakes — we’re definitely happy as coaches.”

5. The schedule

Bad news: The Huskies’ schedule is back-loaded with a tough closing stretch. Good news: Right now, there are just three ranked…

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