The 2015 season is officially over for the Pac-12. We kick off our season review by handing out some team-by-team grades.
Offense: The Huskies' offense was mediocre-to-bad for much of the year, but it surged in its final three games, averaging 47 points per game during a winning streak that secured a bowl berth and included a win over state rival Washington State and a bowl victory. Still, if the Huskies want more in 2016, they will have to be better. With a true freshman quarterback and a rebuilt offensive line, Washington ranked ninth in the Pac-12 in scoring offense with 30.6 points per game. They were seventh in yards per play at 6.0. The Huskies averaged 4.5 yards per rushing play, which ranked sixth. As for passing, Jake Browning led an offense that was seventh in passing efficiency, seventh in sacks allowed (33) and 10th in turnovers (22). Browning ranked 10th in the conference and 58th in the nation in Total QBR, ESPN's metric for measuring QBs. If this offense had been just a little bit better, the Huskies might have made some noise in the North Division. Grade: C-minus.
Defense: After losing a gaggle of early NFL draft picks, most projected Washington to be rebuilding on defense. That wasn't the case by any measure, as Pete Kwiatkowski's unit was actually better this fall -- as in "by far the best unit in the Pac-12" better. The Huskies led the Pac-12 in scoring defense (18.8 points per game) and yards allowed per play (4.9). Those numbers ranked 13th and 23rd in the nation. They allowed seven fewer touchdowns than any other Pac-12 team, in large part because their red-zone TD percentage was just 43.59, which ranked first in the conference and 10th in the nation. The defense also made up for a lot of offensive turnovers by piling up 27 takeaways, second-most in the conference. While the sack numbers were down after the talented 2014 front seven mostly departed, the Huskies ranked third in third-down percentage defense, just less than 0.6 percent behind No. 1 USC. This was a fantastic coaching job by Kwiatkowski and his staff. Grade: A.
Special teams: While Dante Pettis was outstanding returning punts -- two touchdowns, conference leading 16.9 yards per return, which ranked fourth in the nation -- the Huskies were mediocre on special teams. The were 11th in the conference in kickoff returns, sixth in net punting, sixth in kickoff coverage and 10th in field-goal percentage. This is definitely an area that needs to improve in 2016. Grade: C-minus.
Overall: The preseason expectations for coach Chris Petersen's second year weren't terribly high. Most projections saw a bowl berth as a baseline for a successful season. The Huskies delivered that, including a bowl win. They also beat the Cougars to secure bowl eligibility, which surely made fans feel good. Still, a 4-5 conference record and fifth-place finish in the North -- they tied with California, but the Bears won in Husky Stadium -- doesn't represent something that Washington should aspire toward. While playing hated rival Oregon competitively for a change was something, it doesn't mean much when the result was a 12th consecutive loss. Long-suffering Huskies fans won't feel good about a season until the team returns to the national rankings and delivers a victory over Oregon. Grade: C.