(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
The No. 14 Arizona State Sun Devils (5-1, 3-1 Pac-12) are riding a hot streak as they travel to Seattle to take on the unranked Washington Huskies (5-2, 1-2 Pac-12) on Saturday night.
While the Sun Devils will get starting quarterback Taylor Kelly back, the Huskies may lose several key offensive players due to injury, something that certainly will not help against the Sun Devils’ fired-up defense.
Snapshot of Washington
Washington made noise in the offseason after finally luring Chris Petersen away from Boise State. Petersen was (and is) expected to turn Washington into a Pac-12 powerhouse, something former head coach Steve Sarkisian could not do.
The Huskies started the season 4-0 against a soft schedule. The only power-five conference team they beat was Illinois – who is currently seventh in the Big 10 West – and the only team they beat in that stretch currently holding a .500 record or better is Eastern Washington, an FCS team.
The season turned around once conference play opened up. The Huskies are 1-2 in conference, with the two losses coming at home against Stanford 20-13, and on the road against Oregon, 40-25.
A lack of consistency on both sides of the ball has been an issue for the Huskies all season. Linebacker Shaq Thompson leads a talented defense still learning Petersen’s system. The Huskies struggled against Oregon’s high-powered offense and gave up seven touchdown passes to Eastern Washington’s Vernon Adams Jr. However, against California, a team averaging close to 42 points per game, the Huskies only allowed seven points.
Washington’s offense was a question mark coming into the season. In the offseason, the Huskies lost quarterback Keith Price, running back Bishop Sankey, top-receiver Kevin Smith, and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins– four of their top five offensive players from last season.
With all those players gone, it’s obvious why the Huskies rank worse than 50th in every major offensive category, and injuries are not going to help. The Huskies will be without quarterback Cyler Miles, and they may be without running backs Lavone Coleman and Dwayne Washington against the Sun Devils improving defense.
Matchup to Watch
Taylor Kelly against his foot. Yes, you read that correctly.
Lower body injuries are tricky. Players may feel fine in their everyday life and even at practice, but once the game starts they can flare up and limit production. Although the injury is to Kelly’s right foot, which is his back foot when throwing, the weight transfer while passing could impact his passing ability.
It will also be interesting to see how much Kelly runs throughout the game. The coaches will likely limit designed quarterback runs to avoid hits, but one of Kelly’s strengths is his ability to scramble out of the pocket. If his foot gives him problems, and he cannot move around the way he usually does, it could slow down ASU’s offense.
The one thing the Sun Devils need to avoid is letting their guard down. There were no signs of a hangover after the Hail Mary win against USC, but Stanford was a team that haunted ASU last season. The Sun Devils need to put the Stanford win behind them or they could have a game stolen from them in Seattle.
With this game being in Seattle, Washington’s defense could give Arizona State some problems. However, the Sun Devil defense has improved greatly since the debacle against UCLA, and with potential injury problems, the Huskies may not be able to score enough to win.
ASU wins, 35-10.