This weekend, the Washington Huskies will take on the Arizona State Sun Devils in Tempe, where the Dawgs haven’t pulled out a win since the 2001 season with Rick Neuheisel at the helm. Nonetheless, Vegas Insiders give the Huskies a 17.5-point edge as of Thursday afternoon, and ESPN’s Football Power Index affords UW an 86.3 percent chance of emerging from the desert victorious. How does the UW Dawg Pound staff see Saturday evening’s game turning out?
Let me just put this out in the open: I can’t get over feeling that it’s incredibly strange for the Huskies to be three-score favorites in a game kicking off in the state of Arizona.
The logical part of me gets it, of course. Chris Petersen has assembled one of — if not the — finest coaching staffs and rosters in the Pac-12, and Washington is among the most consistent teams in the nation under his leadership. So, of course it’s no surprise that the Dawgs are heavily favored over an Arizona State team that fields the 120th-ranked defense.
And yet, I can’t get over the fact that Washington is 1-9 in its 10 most recent games in the Grand Canyon State. Moreover, Chris Petersen is 1-3 when playing in Arizona as UW’s head coach, with the sole win being last year’s overtime nail-biter against the otherwise woeful Wildcats.
All this is to say that, as a rule, UW historically doesn’t play well in the desert, with Chris Petersen or anyone else as head coach. On the other hand, Arizona State’s defense is so bad that it might not matter. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I’m thinking plenty of UW fans will suffer heart palpitations until the final whistle ... and that Washington’s place kicking red flags might finally manifest with disastrous consequences. Washington 20, Arizona State 17.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We haven’t won in Tempe since football was played without face masks. It is true that playing in the desert can be tricky business. But let’s be clear ... the Huskies failures are more of a function of the fact that UW was really bad most of those years than anything specific to the locale.
In 2017, ASU is a dangerous but troubled team. Manny Wilkins is having a breakout year and has escalated the passing game. Each of N’Keal Harry, Kyle Williams and Jalen Harvey can change field positions and score from far away.
But that is about all that ASU has going for it right now. The running game can’t get off the ground behind an o-line that has been terribly disappointing. The defense is having a difficult time stopping big plays thanks in part to the injury to man-beast Koron Crump.
Against a team like UW, one that is efficient and able to break off big plays at a top 10 level, it is hard to see where ASU gets an advantage.
UW might give up a couple of more scores than what we’ve seen for other teams, but I doubt you’ll see UW in any real jeopardy anytime on this game. UW 45, ASU 20
Manny Wilkins is the best quarterback UW will have faced this season, and N’Keal Harry is the most physically gifted receiver the young secondary has had to deal with. If UW gets off to another slow start, those two could cause problems. I predict Harry attempts at least one pass in some kind of sparky package.
The ASU defense likes to blitz, but are without top pass rusher Koron Crump. If they cannot get to Jake Browning and don't plan to drop a couple safeties deep, their propensity for allowing big plays will continue and Dante Pettis could run wild.
The Sun Devils' offensive line has not protected Wilkins very well this season and has had trouble getting the running game going as well (3.0 YPC). This is where the Huskies overcome their recent history of struggling in Arizona and take the game over. Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman should get big chunks of yardage once the ASU defense is gassed, and expect mistakes to compound for Wilkins after taking some hits.
UW 45, ASU 17
Not expecting too much from ASU's offense, except for the fact that Manny Wilkins, when he's on, is a flipping magician. I could see it going both ways for the ASU offense: it's not unimaginable that the Devils could score a few legitimate non-garbage time touchdowns thanks to Wilkins' and his receivers' improvement, keeping them in the game for longer. It's /also/ not hard to imagine that their struggling offensive line can't overcome the getting-better-every-week Washington pass rush, and their offense gets stumped. I feel like we'll see the former on a few drives and the latter on the majority.
As for the Husky offense, the ASU defensive attack is pretty predictable with their addiction to blitzing and high-risk, high-reward playcalling. As long as Jake doesn't hold onto the ball for, like, seven seconds every time he drops back, getting it to his playmakers and allowing them to exploit a big-play-conducive ASU defense.
If I had to pick for any Husky to have a big game, I'd go Onwuzurike, Bartlett, and Lil' Bowman on defense and Gaskin and Hunter Bryant on offense. Also, if they can get the ball to Lavon Coleman in space, his angle-manipulation and size/speed combo could be huge.
Final: Washington 42 - 16 ASU
What result do you expect from the Washington vs. Arizona State game?
This poll is closed
Washington wins a blowout
Washington wins a close one
Arizona State wins a close one
Arizona State wins a blowout