With highest ranking in 15 years, No. 8 Huskies host Vandals

BY foxsports • September 9, 2016

SEATTLE (AP) Chris Petersen is at the front of the pack that's wondering whether Washington is really the No. 8 team in the country.

''Talk to me (after) Game 6, and then maybe we'll have another conversation,'' Petersen said this week. ''I didn't even know that until you told me. That's how important it is to me. Our fans are really important so however we can play good football to inspire them is awesome. But it's way too early to be talking about that (rankings) stuff.''

While Petersen would rather the rankings - and the expectations that come with them - would disappear, Washington is again a Top 10 program headed into Saturday's matchup with Idaho.

The No. 8 ranking for the Huskies (1-0) is their highest since 2001 when they also reached No. 8 in the polls before losing at Oregon State. And this week marks the first of what is expected to be two glorified scrimmages for the Huskies prior to the start of Pac-12 play. After hosting Idaho, the Huskies play Portland State before opening the conference season at Arizona.

That means the ranking isn't likely to change over the next couple of weeks and the hype surrounding the Huskies is only going to grow.

Idaho (1-0) is beginning a two-week stretch of playing schools from its neighboring state. The Vandals will make the eight-mile trip to Pullman next week to face Washington State.

''They have all the ingredients you need to have a good football team,'' Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. ''They've got fast receivers, good quarterback, good running back, they do a good job up front on the offensive line ... and then defensively they're good at all three levels.''

Here are other things to watch as the Vandals and Huskies meet for the first time since 2009:

GASKIN GOING: If there was anything disappointing about the Huskies' opener, it was the problems Washington had getting the run going. It became a moot point because of how well the rest of the offense played, but the Huskies managed just 91 yards rushing. Myles Gaskin, coming off a 1,302-yard season last year, was limited to 57 yards on 15 carries.

Most frustrating for Washington was the inability to get the run going in the third quarter when the Huskies had a 34-3 lead.

The 91 yards rushing were the fewest in the previous 10 games and just the fourth time under Petersen that Washington was held under 100 yards.

''If people are going to load up and bring those safeties downhill and try and stop the run, then hopefully we can throw the ball a little bit over their heads,'' Petersen said. ''It's a cat-and-mouse game. But I think we can run the ball better.''

PICK UP THE PASSING: Idaho's Matt Linehan was the most accurate passer in the Sun Belt Conference last season, completing 63 percent of his attempts.

You wouldn't know that from the Vandals' opener. Linehan was just 8 of 22 passing for 128 yards and an interception against Montana State, well off his average of more than 270 yards per game last season.

EXCITING PUNTING: Fans will be watching one of the best punters in the country when Idaho's Austin Rehkow is on the field. And given how good Washington's defense is, Rehkow should have more than a few opportunities to show off his leg. Rehkow is on preseason watch lists for the Ray Guy and Lou Groza awards. He made 23 of 27 field goal attempts last season and averaged 45.7 yards per punt. Rehkow made both of his field goal attempts in the opener against Montana State.

''He needs to have a great day. Ideally we would like them to have no returns,'' Petrino said.

Last week, Washington's John Ross returned a kickoff for a touchdown and Dante Pettis returned a punt for a score.

VANDAL REUNION: Petersen knows the Idaho program quite well. He was unbeaten in six games against Idaho while coaching at Boise State. But the series ended on a sour note after Boise State moved to the Mountain West. The two schools have not played since 2010.

''You always enjoy your rivalry games,'' Petersen said. ''And certainly when it was at Boise that was a big one.''

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