Washington Huskies vs. Arizona State Sun Devils Complete Game Preview
Arizona State will host Washington Saturday night in Tempe, Ariz., in a college football game that is sure to produce offensive fireworks.
ASU's struggles against the run this season have been well documented and they will likely continue on Saturday night.
Ther Sun Devils (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) will have the pleasure of trying to stop one of the nation's leading rushers in Bishop Sankey of Washington (4-2, 1-2). The good news for ASU fans is that Arizona State's offense got back on track last week, although it was against the lowly Colorado Buffaloes.
While it's hard to say who has the definitive upper hand in this matchup, one thing is certain—there will be lots of points scored.
Here's all the information you need to know about the game.
Time: 6 p.m. ET
Place: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
Television: Pac-12 Network
Radio: Sun Devil IMG Sports Network, Washington IMG Sports Network
Spread: ASU +3, according to Vegas.com
Washington Keys to Victory
Establish the Run
This should be easy to do against an ASU defense that has struggled to stop the run all year. Bishop Sankey enters the game ranked second in the nation in rushing and averaging almost six yards per attempt. The Sun Devils allow opponents to average nearly 170 yards rushing per game, so Sankey and the Huskies should be able to control the ball and the clock.
Play With Intensity
The Huskies are coming off back-to-back emotional, and physical, beatings in losses to Stanford and Oregon. It will be easy for Washington to overlook Arizona State and not go into Tempe, Ariz. with the same intensity and fire it played with the last two weeks. If that's the case, it will be a long day for the Huskies.
Pressure Taylor Kelly
Against Notre Dame, ASU's offensive line struggled protecting its quarterback resulting in two late interceptions that ended the Sun Devils' dreams of a comeback. If the Huskies can get pressure on Kelly, he will put the ball up for grabs and Washington can capitalize.
Arizona State Keys to Victory
Make the Game a Shootout
The Sun Devils know how to score, especially at home. ASU averages 50.8 points per game at home this season and the Sun Devils' best chance of beating Washington is to force the Huskies to match them on their end zone trips. Arizona State needs to score at a breakneck pace like it did against USC to make the game a shootout if it wants to win.
Stop the Run
While it will be nearly impossible for the Sun Devils to entirely stop Washington's rushing attack, they do need to at least contain it if they want a chance this weekend. It's going to take a full, team effort to do that and will require the Sun Devils to be at the top of their mental and physical games.
Defensive Line Needs to Produce
Will Sutton and company have been quiet so far this season, but there's no better time for them to have a breakout game. ASU's defensive line was thought to be one of the best in the nation over the offseason, but the numbers haven't backed up that claim thus far. Sutton needs to lead his teammates in getting pressure in the backfield and disrupting Keith Price if ASU wants to win.
Players to Watch for Washington
The junior defensive lineman has put together a solid 2013 campaign. He has accounted for 26 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for a loss, and 3.5 sacks. It'll be up to Arizona State's offensive line to protect Taylor Kelly from Kikaha's pass rush. If the line performs like it has recently, that may be a big problem, as Notre Dame's Prince Shembo is a similar build to Kikaha and had three sacks against ASU.
With the matchup Sankey has this weekend against Arizona State's defense, he may put up some record numbers. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and Southern Cal's Tre Madden both rushed for over 120 yards against the Sun Devils this season. Sankey should be able to put up similar numbers, if not better.
Players to Watch for Arizona State
Sutton has been quiet all year, accounting for only 2.5 tackles for a loss and one sack. It's about time for the senior to leave his mark and Washington may be the game. The Huskies had trouble in protecting quarterback Keith Price from Oregon's pass rush last week. Sutton may be able to capitalize on the Huskies' last two beatings.
Randall got his first start two weeks ago against Notre Dame and made 17 tackles. He followed that performance with three tackles and an interception in limited playing time against Colorado. Randall will be a major X-factor for ASU's defense on Saturday. If he's a tackling machine like he was against the Irish, the Sun Devils will have a chance to contain Washington's rushing attack. He also has been in the right spot to make critical interceptions several times this season.
What They Are Saying
Jeff Metcalfe of Azcentral.com reported that Arizona State head coach Todd Graham has decided to make De’Marieya Nelson a two-way player this weekend:
De’Marieya Nelson is a “3-back” about to become Arizona State’s first two-way player since J.R. Redmond in 1999.
Just six games into his ASU offensive career, the 6-foot-3 Nelson is expected to play some at defensive end Saturday against No.20 Washington, ASU coach Todd Graham said.
Graham told Alex Williams of Arizonsports.com that Washington is the best team that ASU's faced this year, saying, "There's not a team on our schedule that's more talented than the team rolling in here Saturday."
Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian told Andrew Gilstrap of Arizonasports.com that the Huskies will need to play their best football in order to win on Saturday night:
They're an excellent football team -- very well-coached, talented players on both sides of the ball. We would obviously love to go down there and get the win. I think it would be big for us; it would really springboard us into the second half of the season, but we also know it's going to take a great effort to get that done.
Arizona State defensive coordinator Paul Randolph told Azfamily.com's Brad Denny why ASU's Davon Coleman has had a breakout season:
I think he is finally getting comfortable in our system. He knows what we want and expect from him. He's practicing better than he has ever practiced, and it's showing on game. I attribute it to his work ethic in practice. He's practicing harder, practicing better, and with more attention to detail, and he's playing that way.
Washington 49, ASU 38
The game will be a high-scoring affair, but in the end, Washington's rushing attack will lead the Huskies to the road win over the Sun Devils.
Expect Bishop Sankey to run all over ASU's defense, allowing Keith Price to run play action whenever he wants with success.
It won't be all bad for ASU, though. The Sun Devils should be able to move the ball as well, but in crunch time, their offensive line may let Taylor Kelly down again. Washington is a team that can get after the quarterback and could throw Kelly off of his game.