Dennis Erickson is in his third season as head coach at ASU. He blew the Pac 10 away during his first season by putting together a squad that came close to competing for the league title. During his second-year with ASU in 2008, the team under-performed and fell to the league's second division. This season, despite a 3-2 record, the Sun Devils are still performing under the level one would expect of a Dennis Erickson team.
Most of the problems are on offense. Danny Sullivan isn't getting the job done at QB and the offensive line is among the weakest in the Pac 10. The same offensive woes that haunted ASU in 2008 are hitting again in '09, but are magnified because Sullivan isn't close to being the same type of QB as the departed Rudy Carpenter.
Fans in Tempe would like to see more of true frosh Brock Osweiler under center. He played three series last week against WSU, but didn't give any indication that he is ready yet, despite going 3-4 for 21 yards and a fumbled snap to his credit. Official word out of Tempe is that Sullivan will start again this week, with Osweiler continuing to wait in the wings. Expect Erickson to give the 6'8 frosh QB from Montana at least a few series this weekend.
Sullivan threw three interceptions against the Cougars last weekend. Husky fan ought to find this music to their ears, as the Cougar secondary doesn't exactly resemble that of USC. Turnovers are a big part of any win, and if the ASU offense turns it over six times to a team like Washington, it will be lights out Sun Devils. Expect Erickson to watch the UW vs. UA game film and concentrate on spreading Washington out with a high percentage short passing game.
The saving grace for the Sun Devils is a defensive front seven that is one of the very best in the conference. I wouldn't say that it is the best Washington has seen so far this year but these guys know how to put pressure on a QB. Jake Locker's speed will be needed in this one to avoid the pass rush that will be coming. Make no mistake about it. ASU has painted a big red X on Locker's chest and they will be blitzing.
The secondary is the weakest point of ASU's defense. Washington can pass on these guys all night if Locker has time and the Husky WR's get a little separation. In contrast, Arizona had a much tougher defense with likely the best defensive backfield UW will play for the rest of the season.
That said, ASU is no pushover. Washington isn't going to win this game by much. Playing in Tempe isn't easy if a decent crowd shows up to watch. The oddsmakers have installed ASU as a three point favorite, which has already inflated up to seven.
Washington didn't impress anyone against Arizona except the scoreboard. Arizona dominated this game; the only reason the Wildcat's lost was because they couldn't convert in the red zone, and for some strange reason Mike Stoops kept passing the ball with five minutes left in the game. It is nice to win one you shouldn't coming off the tails of losing one you shouldn't. You can't count on luck every week; Washington needs to play better on offense and special teams to beat ASU on the road.
An obvious key to winning the game is avoiding the turnovers and special teams miscues that almost buried the Huskies last week in the third quarter. Defensively, the Huskies need to take advantage of a sloppy team that makes a lot of mistakes. If WSU can force six errors the Huskies should be able to do something similar this weekend.
I expect to see Jake Locker continue running the ball this week. ASU is very aggressive with its pass rush, setting up a lot of things for a guy as versatile as Jake. Whenever Jake steps up in the pocket or rolls out wide he has the ability to make people miss and take it to the house. If ASU overruns a play, Jake will make them pay.
Locker was responsible for 90% of the Washington offense against Arizona. That is never a good thing. Up to that game, the Huskies were able to get good balance from a strong running game. Tempo, injuries, coming from behind, and simple time of possession never allowed Washington to get that going last week. We have all seen what Chris Polk can do when he gets in a rhythm, but he will be going up against a very tough run defense this week. UW needs to establish the run early in this one to control the clock and keep the red X off the front of Locker's jersey.
What the heck is a Sun Devil anyway?
You would think that some inventive person at ASU just made it up, but a Sun Devil is actually a weather phenomenon many of you know as a whirlwind, or a dust devil without the dust. The mascot character, the much beloved Sparky, was drawn by the late Bert Anthony, a minion of Walt Disney. Rumor has it that Sparky was illustrated to resemble Disney, and if you look at them side by side it’s kind of creepy.
Torches and Pitchforks
Danny Sullivan threw the ball a whopping 58 times in the loss to Oregon State! He completed over 50% of his passes and ended up with over 300 passing yards.
Chris McGaha is Sullivan's main target. He caught a career high 15 balls against the Beavers.
Dennis Erickson was knocked unconscious during a play on the ASU sideline lat week against WSU. He felt pretty woozy but was able to keep coaching once he took a few minutes to recover.
The ASU defense held WSU to minus 54 rushing yards on 32 attempts!
Arizona State committed six turnovers and botched two extra points against WSU.
The ASU defense sacked WSU a total of 12 times on Saturday which is only three short of the NCAA record of 15.
Kyle Williams is another ASU receiver to keep an eye on. He grabbed 13 receptions against the Cougars. Williams had 211 all-purpose yards: 126 receiving, 53 rushing on a reverse and 32 on punt returns.
ASU is averaging 10.7 yards per reception which is third lowest in the Pac 10.
Only No. 3 Texas (46.2) is allowing fewer rushing yards per game than ASU (49.6).
Dennis Erickson played football at Montana State under a guy named Jim Sweeney whose grandson Nate Fellner may be the starting safety for Washington this week.
Kibbles and Bits
Mason Foster has been named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week.
Foster had 11 tackles in the Dawgs 36-33 victory over Arizona and, of course, keyed the victory with his 37-yard interception return for a touchdown that proved to be the winning score.
Johri Fogerson, Nate Williams, and D'Andre Goodwin are all expected to be back this week.
Cameron Elisara is back after suffering from stingers in last weeks game.
Chris Polk is fine to practice this week and will get the start at ASU.
Coach Steve Sarkisian said that Chris Polk will continue to receive kickoffs next week. "In a perfect world, you don't want your starting tailback returning kicks," Sarkisian said. "But no one else has seized the opportunity."
Jason Wells is expected to get his first playing time of the season this week. He hasn't played in a game in over two years because of injuries.
Nick Wood is the new starter at guard. Mykena Ikehara and Drew Schaeffer will be the primary backups.
The Huskies have the nation’s 106th-ranked defense out of 120 NCAA Division I-A teams, which is actually an improvement over last season. The key is scoring defense rather than total yards. The Husky defenses performance in the red zone has kept them within striking distance of each opponent they have played. In 30 trips into UW’s red zone, opponents have scored a mere 11 touchdowns this season.
Year to date NCAA schedule rankings:
UW .810, Georgia .808, Virgina Tech .763, Florida St. .704, Nobody else is even over .700
The Oregon is set for ABC at 12:30 a week from Saturday. The Huskies then will enjoy a much-needed bye week after the Oregon game.
Quote of the Week
"To me, luck is when preparation meets opportunity," Steve Sarkisian said at Monday's press conference.