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Phil Steele Names College Football’s Biggest ‘Surprise’ Team

2020 gave us a lot of surprise college football teams that exceeded all expectations and then some. But for college football analyst Phil Steele, there’s one team that could surprise people the most in 2021.

Amid his 350-page preseason preview book, Steele had about a dozen teams that he believes will surprise people. While Utah, USC, Miami and Wisconsin all made the top five, it was Washington who stand out to him as the biggest potential surprise.

Steele said that nearly half of his power ratings for the coming season have Washington going undefeated. He highlighted their offensive line, running backs and veteran quarterbacks as factors that could get them over the hump.

“Four of my nine sets of power ratings call for an unbeaten season. Washington has a big, powerful, veteran offensive line, a deep set of running backs and now two veteran quarterbacks.”

247Sports noted that the last time Steele had the Huskies this highly-rated (2016), they won the Pac-12 title and made the College Football Playoff.

In 2020, Washington’s first season under head coach Jimmy Lake, they went 3-1, technically winning the Pac-12 North. But four of their games were canceled due to COVID-19, including their berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

With such a small sample size, it’s hard to gauge just how well Washington would have been on a full schedule.

Washington have not had a losing season in over a decade and are 43-15 in the last five years. They’re a bonafide power, not just in the Pac-12, but in all of college football.

The Pac-12 hasn’t gotten a lot of love in the College Football Playoff, but if any team can get over the hump, it’s Washington.


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