College Football Preview: No. 5 Huskies look for 1st win at ASU since 2001
TEMPE — Washington coach Chris Petersen isn’t happy about all the late starts his team has had this season.
His fifth-ranked Huskies have another one Saturday night in Tempe. Kickoff is 7:45 Pacific time. That’s 10:45 p.m. in the East.
“This will be the toughest game we’ve had this year,” Petersen said.
That’s probably not just coach-speak.
The Huskies (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12) have rolled through three Pac-12 opponents by a combined score of 117-24. Arizona State (2-3, 1-1) is no powerhouse but the Sun Devils, coming off a bye week, should put up more resistance than Colorado, Oregon State and California did.
“They’re obviously the team to beat in our league,” Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. “They won the league (last year) and made it all the way to the playoffs last year and they have very good personnel. Some of those guys have been playing defense there three or four years now.”
Washington ranks third nationally in scoring defense at 10.2 points per game. On Saturday night, the Huskies will zero in on Sun Devils quarterback Manny Wilkins, standout wide receiver N’Keal Harry and running backs Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard.
“They have some really good skill guys,” Petersen said.
Arizona State’s best game this season was a home victory over then-nationally ranked Oregon.
“We did some good things against Stanford (a 34-24 road loss two weeks ago),” Graham said, “but we didn’t tackle well enough to win the game.”
Stanford’s Bryce Love ran for a school-record 301 yards against the Sun Devils.
Washington hasn’t won in Tempe since 2001 but the Huskies routed the Sun Devils 44-18 in Seattle last year.
Here are some things to consider when heavily favored Washington plays Arizona State:
Arizona State is one of three teams that will face the Huskies after a bye week, something that doesn’t thrill Petersen. At least the Huskies’ bye next week comes about halfway through the season.
“For us on the bye, to have it right somewhere in the middle is a good thing,” Petersen said. “To have three teams that have byes right before you, that is not ideal. We cannot worry about other teams. We’ve just got to worry about our team.”
The Huskies have consecutive 6-0 starts to the season for the first time since 1991-1992.
But the schedule has not been that imposing, nonconference wins over Rutgers, Montana and Fresno State and then victories against three of the Pac-12’s lesser foes.
After the bye, the competition gets a bit tougher, but four of the remaining five games (against UCLA, Oregon, Utah and Washington State) are in Seattle. Washington’s only road game after Saturday night is at Stanford on Nov. 10.
THROTTLING ARIZONA STATE
The Sun Devils’ offense will have its hands full and then some against Washington.
The Huskies had eight sacks against Cal. The Bears had minus-40 yards rushing and 93 yards altogether.
They often do it with a three-man rush.
“I keep saying this about every other week, I think sacks — they aren’t probably as significant as turnovers, but they’re one of the next most important things,” Petersen said. “... And then if you can get a bunch of them? I just think it changes the mentality on both sides of the ball.”
Washington hasn’t allowed an opponent to score 30 or more in 20 consecutive games. Arizona State is averaging 32.6 points.
Washington’s offense has been almost as impressive as its defense. The Huskies are tied with Oregon at the top of the Pac-12 rankings at 43 points per game with third-year starter Jake Browning at the controls.
“There’s a lot of guys that get a lot more attention, but he just wins football games,” Graham said. “He’s a championship quarterback and as far as I’m concerned, he sets the standard in our league because he proves it on the football field every week.”
The Sun Devils love to bring pressure, which can lead to a big loss by the opponent or a big play.
Washington has allowed just six sacks, second-fewest in the Pac-12.
“I think this is going to be an exciting game to watch, because they have really, really explosive players on offense, and we have really, really explosive players on offense as well,” Graham said, “and they’re fast and explosive and attacking on defense and so are we.”