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Arizona State vs. Washington: positives and negatives for the UW

Sam Barbee isn't sure what to think about his matchup, but he does have a few things to say about it. Take a look.

Head coach Chris Petersen and the Washington Huskies host No. 14 Arizona State this Saturday on ESPN.
Head coach Chris Petersen and the Washington Huskies host No. 14 Arizona State this Saturday on ESPN.
Steve Dykes

As I wrote in the roundtables, I was cautiously optimistic about Washington's chances against Oregon. I though the Huskies front seven — which had been near dominant for four games — would keep playing elite football and slow down the Ferrari that is Oregon. And if the UW could score some points, a few points, any points at all, it would have a good chance of winning. I was wrong.

I was so, so wrong.

Some of it was scheme. On one of Royce Freeman's touchdowns Danny Shelton was playing what's called the five technique tackle, on the left guard's outside shoulder. Although massive, that plays right into a trap dive when all the guard has to is step play side (to his right) and Shelton is walled off. From there, the blocking is easy and Freeman basically went untouched.

But some of it was pure talent. Oregon is better than Washington. It kills me to say that, but I must give credit where credit is due. Oregon can play.

So that brings us now to Washington's (5-2, 1-2) second Pac-12 home game under Chris Petersen against 14th-ranked Arizona State (5-1, 3-1). I'm not going to write a straight preview, but I'll tell you what I think.

Positives:

The last time Washington played a high octane passing attack was at Cal, and the Dawgs got lots of pressure on Jared Goff. If you watched the Cal-UCLA game and not the Cal-Washington game, Goff looked worried and panicked against Washington, whereas he looked calm and comfortable against UCLA. That's big. Plus Mike Bercovici hasn't played in Husky Stadium yet, which can be a fairly big deal.

Although Washington's offense only put up six points when it mattered, I think the group played better. There were some series that were atrocious at best, but the offense is on the right track. Plus, there is a chance Cyler Miles might be Wally Pipp'd by Troy Williams at quarterback. Miles has concussion-like symptoms and is yet to practice as of Tuesday. The redshirt freshman came in and gave new life to the offense. Granted, it was in garbage time, but he hadn't taken an FBS snap yet and he looked really good. I like him.

Washington actually plays better on the road under Petersen. I know, two games with a 1-1 record isn't much of a sample size, but the UW did not play well on the road under Steve Sarkisian. Now, 45-20 isn't any better than any other game against Oregon in the last 11 years, but they're closer. Just not close enough.

Negatives:

Washington hasn't beaten Arizona State in a rather long time. When I was in one of my first two years of college (they all seemed smash together now), Washington played Arizona State at home and it was rainy, nasty, normal Seattle November weather. Here was the problem: Arizona State looked like they had played in the rain before and Washington looked like it was from the desert. It was embarrassing. It was one of the few game I left early because I just couldn't watch it. As a northwest native, teams from the desert should never come to Seattle when it's rainy and look more comfortable. It shouldn't happen, and it did then.

Also, the last time Washington played the Sun Devils (last year) they got absolutely housed in Tempe. Plus, the Pac-12 Networks had their documentary cameras following the Sun Devils, so I got to watch the dismantling again. But that's beside the point.

The Dawgs haven't played well against ranked teams, either. I don't know what it is. I really don't. It's almost like they overthink things and try too hard, but I can't be certain because I'm not in the locker room. The top-10 win over Oregon State doesn't count, because that team wasn't a top-10 team. They got lucky to be ranked that high. The win against Stanford earlier that season was impressive, and the Holiday Bowl win over a Nebraska team that wanted to be anywhere in the country but that stadium that night.

Then there was the win over No. 3 USC in Sarkisian's first year in Seattle. I was in the press box with my dad, and I got to watch as the students rushed the field while my seat shook scarily in the flimsy old box. And it literally was a box. Free hot dogs, though, so I guess it was worth it.

To conclude my ramblings, I'm not sure what to think. I'm not good at making predictions because my heart is in it too often, so I won't try to give a score or a winner. But I think Washington's defense will want to play better than they did against Oregon, and I think Williams starts and gives the offense the spark it has been searching for all year. I like and dislike this matchup at the same time. Then again, I was worried about the Cal matchup and looked how that turned out.

Maybe I should just think they'll lose.