Week 9: Arizona State at Washington

Arizona State (5-1) at Washington (5-2) Oct. 25, 10:45, ESPN 

Here’s The Deal: Arizona State and Washington meet this weekend in Seattle with very different frame of minds. The Sun Devils are coming off a decisive win over Stanford. And by virtue of the surprisingly easy defeat of the Cardinal, coupled with the Oct. 4 walk-off win against USC in the Coliseum, ASU is suddenly in control of its own destiny in the Pac-12 South. The Huskies, on the other hand, are looking to bounce back from yet another loss to Oregon, a deflating eleventh straight in the series. It’s important for U-Dub to prevent last week’s result from becoming a trend that derails the second half of the season. 

Why Arizona State Might Win: The offense has not been a concern in Tempe. But now that the defense is gelling, the Sun Devils are on the verge of becoming a complete team. ASU beat Stanford at its own game last week, winning the line of scrimmage to shut down the running game. Coordinator Keith Patterson’s tinkers with the D are working, as the unit continues to pull together. LB Antonio Longino is flashing his range, NT Mo Latu is clogging the interior and JUCO transfer CB Kweishi Brown broke up five Kevin Hogan passes on Saturday. 

Why Washington Might Win: ASU is improved on defense, yes, but it’s still vulnerable to teams that can get physical at the line of scrimmage. The Huskies harbor a massive front wall that they’ll use to free up RB Dwayne Washington and QB Cyler Miles, provided he’s cleared following last week’s concussion. On defense, Washington has excelled all season at getting to the quarterback. It’s got 27 sacks, 20 from the nasty tandem of DE Hau’oli Kikaha and NT Danny Shelton. This is rough assignment for Sun Devil QB Taylor Kelly to be making his return from a foot injury. 

Who To Watch Out For: So what can be expected from Kelly, who’s back to taking first-team reps in practice this week? He’s the unequivocal leader of the attack, despite the solid play of backup Mike Bercovici, but he hasn’t been in pads since Sept. 13. Kelly is bound to be a little rusty, and his chemistry with RB D.J. Foster and WR Jaelen Strong might be off in the early going. Fortunately for the ASU staff, the Sun Devils lead the Pac-12 in fewest sacks allowed. 

What’s Going To Happen: Arizona State has been a different team since plucked a Bercovici pass out of the air to beat USC at the beginning of the month. The team survived the injury to Kelly, and is ready to make a push toward another Pac-12 title game now that the front man is back and the defense is playing better. A banged-up Washington, both physically and emotionally, will lose a second straight game, bowing to the surging Sun Devils. 

Prediction: Arizona State 38 … Washington 27 
Line: Arizona State -3.5 o/u: 61.5 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Dumb and Dumber To – 1: Manhattan Love Story … 3.5