JEFF GORMAN (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS)
For the second week in a row, Washington is on the road facing a team with an athletic quarterback, really good running back, and suspect defense. Like the Rose Bowl, Sun Devil Stadium has also not been kind to Washington for the past 20 or so years.
The difference is this Arizona State team is 1-4 and playing under an interim head coach. They did show signs of life against USC last week, for a half, but sacks, penalties and stretches of bad QB play doomed them as it had it in prior games. Washington showed that while the QB and WR play is there to hang with anyone on their schedule, the secondary will get exploited and the defense still struggles on 3rd downs.
Arizona State feels like a team desperate for a victory and has enough talent at the top of the depth chart with players like QB Emory Jones, RB Xazavian Valladay, and LB Merlin Robertson to win more games than they have. I expect Washington’s defense to struggle in the familiar areas but Valladay and Jones are not the same duo the Huskies faced at UCLA. The Sun Devil defensive front isn’t generating pressure, and the offensive line is having a hard time in protection, which will ultimately be the difference.
I still think this is a close game as it seems ASU is playing better these two weeks and they are at home. Penix and the receivers couldn’t be the difference last week but I think they will be this week.
Washington- 34, Arizona State- 28
GABEY LUCAS (4-1 SU, 2-3 ATS)
One one hand, Tempe is cursed: 49-0 ASU
On the other hand, ASU is a whole cluster right now: 49-0 Washington
Realistically, I’ll go for like Washington 41 - 28 ASU. No, I’m not elaborating, it’s just general vibes-based prediction-ing because I have other work to do right now and Vox pays us like 5 cents for this. You know that score makes sense, you don’t need me to add on another 500 words.
Washington- 41, Arizona State- 28
ANDREW BERG (3-2 SU, 2-3 ATS)
Trips to Tempe tend to end terribly for Washington. Whether it’s the stadium, the playing surface, the travel, the heat, or a persistent fear of scorpions, generations of Dawgs have come up short against the Sun Devils. In total, Washington has lost 12 of the last 14 against ASU, including sevens straight on the road. The streak includes (arguably) Jake Browning’s worst performance in a UW jersey in a 13- 7 loss in 2017 when the Dawgs entered at #5 in the country (also known as the “WTF Van Soderberg” game), a blown 17-point lead in 2015, a 53-point offensive explosion by Marion Grice and Taylor Kelly in 2013, and a 50-yard Hail Mary to lose in 2009. The last time the Dawgs won in Tempe, Rick Neuheisel was the coach and Cody Pickett handed off to Rich Alexis and Willie Hurst enough to gobble up 11:52 of game time before John Anderson kicked the game winning FG as time expired.
I say all of this to remind everyone how odd it is that the Dawgs are favored by 14 points in Sun Devil stadium. That gap has less to do with UW’s quality than it does with ASU’s disorder. It’s not every year that a team has to fire their head coach mid-season, and that type of letdown tends to lower expectations (let me reintroduce you to the 2021 Apple Cup). Still, there are plenty of reasons for optimism between the lines. ASU’s defense has been abysmal this year, and the pass defense has been the main culprit. The Devils have managed only three sacks in five games and rank 126th in defensive success rate against the pass. Both of those stats play into the left hand of Michael Penix, who has been lights out to a variety of receivers when he has time to throw.
On the other side of the ball, ASU’s one area of competence has been the run game, spearheaded by the transfer duo of QB Emory Jones and Scrabble champion RB Xazavian Valladay. As we are all too aware, UW’s primary defensive shortcoming has been in the secondary, an area where ASU prefers not to go. Some of ASU’s season stats are skewed by a challenging early schedule (@ OK St, Utah, and @ USC in the first five weeks). They lost by 21 and 17 the last two weeks to the Utes and Trojans, which are not horrific outcomes. Even if you discount the offense based on playing in a tough road environment that is about three degrees short of bursting into flames, it’s hard to see how an average run offense can exploit an average run defense enough to keep up with the UW passing game. Stranger things have happened in this series, enough that I’m shying away from picking UW to cover, but that curse would have to be even worse than I think in order for ASU to actually win.
Washington- 30, Arizona State- 21
Max Vrooman (5-0 SU, 2-3 ATS)
Obviously things aren’t going well for Arizona State this season. They fired their head coach after all. And while there was justification at other times to say the dismissal was due to off-field issues, the timing (just after a home loss to Eastern Michigan) makes it clear it was about the football.
Speaking of the football, that 1-4 record isn’t great for Arizona State but it’s worth noting they’ve played one of the toughest schedules in college football. Road losses by 17 against now #7 Oklahoma State and #6 USC are certainly respectable. The 21 point loss at home against #11 Utah is more dispiriting but plenty of teams will lose by more to the Utes this year. Really the only game that makes you think Arizona State truly sucks is the Eastern Michigan loss.
Add on top of that Washington’s historical ineptness in the desert and the ridiculous 1p start time for a game in early October in Tempe and I understand the concern. At the same time this is an ASU team that has started slow in all of their games against a Husky team that has scored at least 16 points at halftime in every contest. The heat becomes less of a factor if Washington is sitting on a multi-touchdown lead by the time we enter the 3rd quarter.
I’m supposed to be the numbers guy which means I ignore things like the curse of the desert. There are definitely numbers out there (like SP+) that thinks it will be close regardless but I think Coach DeBoer will have the team motivated to bounce back on an extra day’s rest and the depth on offense will be able to counteract the heat and keep Washington’s foot on the pedal even if ASU has a few late scores.
Washington- 44, Arizona State- 25
THE FINAL TALLY
Straight Up: Washington- 4, Arizona State- 0
Against the Spread (UW -14): Washington- 1, Arizona State- 3
Average Score: Washington- 37.3, Arizona State- 26.0