Heading into Tempe, the Washington Huskies have got to be feeling good about themselves.
Mason Foster's off-the-foot pick to seal the deal versus Arizona put the Dawgs at 3-3 and 2-1 in Pac-10 play. That being said, bowl implications could be on the line for Washington against Arizona State on Saturday.
Washington is half-way to bowl eligibility, but looking the second half of their schedule up and down, three more wins could be hard to come by if they can't beat ASU this weekend.
The Huskies will face Northwest rival and Pac-10 leader, Oregon at Husky Stadium on October 24th, and after that they'll hit the road for two games against UCLA and Oregon State.
Washington has found ways to win, and has contended in nearly every game this season. It's easy to credit this to the Heisman-esque leadership of quarterback Jake Locker, or even the up-and-coming Chris Polk. However, I think if the Huskies are going to beat ASU, the defense is really going to have to step it up.
The defense has taken on a Jekyll and Hyde personality throughout the 2009 season. Against USC, Nick Holt had his defense looking like they deserved that No. 24 ranking. The following week, Stanford embarrassed the D and won by 20.
And look at the differences in the third and fourth quarters from the Arizona game last week; the Wildcats put up 17 points in the third, then the Huskies come out of nowhere and get two interceptions in the fourth and squeak out a win.
I believe for the most part that the offense is there. Locker and has really been clicking with his receivers, and Polk has looked great as well. This offense is playing like a unit that belongs in a bowl game.
So now it's on the defense.
The defense's primary target against ASU will likely be running back Dimitri Nance, a senior who is on pace to have the best season of his career. Last week at Washington State, Nance went for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Speaking of defenses, ASU boasts one of the best in the Pac-10. That alone is the reason why the Devils escaped a near disaster in Pullman last weekend. With an opponent's average of a little over 230 yards per game, ASU is clearly going to be a test for Locker's offense.
In that same game in Pullman, Arizona State's offense lost three fumbles and quarterback Danny Sullivan threw three picks- against the Cougs . Look for the Huskies to take advantage of an ASU offense that could go into the game with a little lack of confidence.
I look for this matchup to be a Pac-10 shootout, with both teams keeping bowl hopes alive. Although a loss for either team could potentially be detrimental to those hopes.