Disaster struck on Saturday night for the Huskies as they were outplayed on both sides of the ball by a talented and physical USC Trojan team. The Husky Hype Highway has taken a major detour on their way to competing for a spot in the college playoff. They are still in good shape to at least make a Rose Bowl berth if they can win the next 3 games including the Pac-12 championship. But let's look at the game that derailed the Huskies first and then take a peek at the upcoming matchup against a flailing Arizona State team.
Even though the Trojans lost three of their first four games a lot has changed since the first month of the season and the Trojans have been cruising in their last six games. There is no doubt the USC team that arrived in Seattle was the best overall squad UW has faced this season. The Trojan defense was putting constant pressure on Browning who literally had trouble finding his footing especially towards the end of the game. Adoree Jackson had an up and down day allowing John Ross to gain 150+ yards, but he made big plays for the Trojans when it mattered picking off Browning twice. The most efficient quarterback for most of this year, Browning was held to just 17 for 36 passing for a 47 percent completion rate, which is well below the 70 percent average for the season. The Trojans were also able to shut down the UW run holding the talented Myles Gaskin to just 51 yards on 15 carries, his worst performance of the season. The only time Washington really looked in the game was the 70-yard pass to John Ross early in the third quarter. After that it was downhill for the Huskies as nothing offensively worked.
The UW defense held the USC offense to 24 points (UW had a safety at end of game giving the Trojans a total of 26) which was a good effort considering USC had averaged 46 points in their last 3 games. However, Azeem Victor suffered a season ending broken leg injury during the game now leaving UW to finish the season without their top tackler. Without Victor and Joe Mathis, who was the leader in sacks for the team but also out for the rest of the year with a foot injury, the Washington defense will not have as much physical talent to beat the opponent's line as they have done all season. True freshman Taylor Rapp was a lone bright spot in the game as he was able to snag two interceptions. The Huskies defense kept Ronald Jones under 100 yards rushing but Sam Darnold had nearly 300 yards passing which was too much for the Dawgs to eek out a win with an anemic offense. Special teams for USC also got the best of UW when they were able to block a field goal attempt that would have kept the game close for the Dawgs.
Moving on, it will be Senior day this week for the Huskies and it will be the last chance for the UW to make a statement at home after the massive let down against USC. Arizona State has endured injuries that have put the team on a four-game skid. Let's take a look what the Sun Devils can do to at least put up a respectable fight in Husky Stadium.
Arizona State got off to a hot start this year winning their first 4 games and splitting the next two for a 5-1 record. In the last month however things have gone downhill for the Sun Devils. Currently they are short two offensive linemen with one questionable for this Saturday. This leaves a swiss cheese offensive line that allowed 11 sacks against Utah. Arizona State ranks as one of the worst pass protections teams in the country. ASU's quarterback Manny Wilkins has thrown for decent yardage in the games he has played but has been hobbled by injuries throughout the season. Getting sacked 11 times probably did not help the cause. ASU has started three quarterbacks this season and the backup QB is out for the year as well as the 3rd string quarterback so if Wilkins goes down there is little depth behind him. Luckily, for ASU they do have two excellent running backs in Kallen Ballage and Demario Richard. Ballage tied the NCAA record with an 8 touchdown performance against Texas Tech earlier this year. Richard is also a talented back who leads the Sun Devils in rushing yards for the season with 534 but has struggled in the last few games. Without a healthy offensive line to create openings for ASU it will be difficult for the talented backs to get going.
Defensively ASU is one of the worst teams in college football. They are allowing 387 yards of passing on average to other teams. They are well on their way to shatter records with those atrocious numbers. To give you an idea how bad that is Washington is allowing only 336 yards TOTAL to opponents. Though ASU rush defense is much better their total defense still ranks 124 out of 128 FBS teams. It's hard to imagine a team this bad against the pass will be able to do much against Browning and his team of all-star receivers. We may see Browning's passing attempts up again this game as ASU has demonstrated little ability to stop the pass.
Now let's see what the Huskies have planned for the sliding Sun Devils. Keep in mind, not only is it Senior day for the Huskies but the Sun Devils have taken the last ten games in the series and UW will be looking to end that long streak like they did against Oregon. First, let's look at the offense and what they will do differently than last week.
Jake Browning faced his biggest test this past Saturday and failed to deliver. A mix of the offensive line failing to provide protection, a superb USC secondary and his own failings lead to a subpar performance. Against ASU, Browning will not face such a difficult challenge and one can expect Browning to learn from his mistakes last week and take advantage of the much weaker defense of the Sun Devils. Browning may be called upon to throw the ball a lot against the poor secondary of ASU. However, Petersen may not need to alter his typical game plan too much if Myles Gaskin can get going despite the much better rush defense ASU offers. Washington receivers are just going to be too much for ASU. John Ross was basically able to outpace perhaps the best cornerback in the country in Adoree Jackson. ASU has no one of this caliber in their secondary. However, ASU has one trick up their sleeve that may unnerve Browning. ASU likes to blitz on many of their plays and the added pressure could disrupt Browning. The gut feeling is the receivers will get open quickly allowing Browning to dump off the ball negating the potential effect of the blitz packages. If Browning begins to hesitate, ASU may be able to get a few sacks to disrupt the offense and keep themselves in the game.
Defensively, Washington will be without two of their best players in Azeem Victor and Joe Mathis. Their backups in DJ Beavers and Connor O'Brien seem up to the task to keep up the defensive production. Washington will probably take some cues from Utah's successful disruption of the ASU offense last week. The Dawgs are going to put pressure on the quarterback and hope to repeat the sack fest that created havoc for Wilkins the past few weeks. Removing Wilkins from the equation the Huskies can then concentrate on shutting down the effective run game of Demario Richard and Kallen Ballage. The secondary for UW will have to deal with leading receiver for ASU Tim White and freshman phenom N'Keal Harry. The two have combined for over 1,000 yards receiving for the season. Sidney Jones with Budda Baker and Kevin King should be able to contain these receivers though. The pressure on Wilkins from UW's linebackers should allow the Husky secondary to snag a few more interceptions this game.
Looking at special teams ASU has an ace in the hole with the best kicker in college, Zane Gonzalez. Gonzalez is closing in on NCAA records of kicks made in a college career. This season he has already hit 3 field goals over 50 yards. He is reliable from long range which might matter if the game is close which is unlikely to happen. As for the Huskies, John Ross had a decent return against the Trojans and is overdue for a highlight reel return. Dante Pettis struggled last week and may look to exact revenge for his lackluster performance by running back a kick of his own.
Overall, ASU is injury plagued and playing a UW team that still has a lot to lose. The likely scenario is the Huskies will mend the hype Highway and return to excellence against a team that has slipped into despair this season. Let's bring the Husky Hype back and make some predictions.
- UW has 500+ yards of total offense against ASU
- ASU turns over the ball 3 times
- Huskies get 4+ sacks
- Browning gets back to 70%+ completion percentage for the game.
- Jake throws for 4+ touchdowns
- UW scores 28 in the first half
Final Score prediction: Huskies win easily 52-21