(Sorry this is late — didn’t realize it never posted earlier).
Since there are only 12 of them, every game for a college football game takes on a lot of importance.
And with each win or loss, the tenor of the following game changes. Had UW lost last week to Arizona, Saturday’s game against Arizona State would almost have felt like do-or-die in terms of staying in the hunt for a bowl game.
Since the Huskies won, tomorrow’s game takes on a different feel — UW doesn’t have to win it to say in bowl contention, but a victory would go a long way toward making it feel a lot more real (or at least more real than the story of the Balloon Boy).
Get to 4-3 — and with a game against the Cougars still in the wings — and a bowl game really starts to feel within reach.
Lose it, and the task gets exponentially more difficult. As I wrote last week, that it’s even still a discussion is a victory in itself at this point.
But when you look at the six games UW has left, you see why this one is so important — home games againt Oregon, Cal and WSU; road games against ASU, UCLA and Oregon State. At this moment, UW would likely be pretty significant under dogs against both Oregon and Oregon State, and the Huskies haven’t won at UCLA since 1995
Meaning, one of the easiest ways to get the three remaining wins necessary is to win at ASU tomorrow night.
The Sun Devils are 6.5-point favorites, and while a lot of you have debated that that seems way too high, it’s not hard to see why a lot of people are picking ASU. UW has lost its last nine road games, all but four by 20 or more points, including one of the two its played this year. Sure, this is a different team. But it’s human nature to need to see it to believe it. Until UW proves it can win on the road there will be doubts.
And while ASU’s defensive stats may be a bit inflated by the schedule it has played, that doesn’t mean they are completely meaningless. UW offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said this week that ASU may have the best front seven the Huskies have played this year.
And that figures to be a real challenge for a UW offensive front that has struggled to mount much of a real consistent running game most of the time this year. That likely means another game where the real key is keeping it close enough to allow Jake Locker — who will be the best player on the field — to make the difference.
When I broke the game down for our position ratings, here’s what I came up with:
QB — Washington. Locker an obvious choice.
TB – Washington. A fairly close call as Dmitri Nance is pretty good. But if healthy, Chris Polk appears to be the better all-around back and Johri Fogerson is back to provide relief.
WR — Even. A tough one to read with the status both of ASU’s leading WRs — Chris McGaha and Kyle Williams — unknown due to injury and illness, and UW having its own injury situations — Jordan Polk out, Devin Aguilar coming back from a concussion this week and D’Andre Goodwin a concussion two weeks ago.
OL — Washington. Neither O-line, frankly, is great. But I’m giving a little edge to UW due to some injury issues on ASU’s side, specifically, the loss of starting RG Garth Gerhart this week.
DL — Arizona State. ASU’s DE Dexter Davis and DT Lawrence Guy could be two of the best UW plays all season. Each is 6-5 creating an imposing presence.
LB — Arizona State. UW’s LB corps is playing well, no doubt about it. But so is ASU’s, so a grudging edge to the Devils.
Secondary — Arizona State. This is not ASU’s strong suit and the Devils have some injury issues here, as well. But so do the Huskies and last week showed how fragile UW is in the secondary.
Special teams — Even. ASU might have the edge if PK Thomas Weber really makes it back. But without knowing for sure, call this one even — the Devils have been better in the return games, overall.
Basically, this looks like a pretty even matchup — ASU has the better defense, UW a better offense (despite playing a stronger schedule, the Huskies are gaining five more yards a game than the Devils and have a pass efficiency rating 25 points higher).
What we also know is that the Huskies can’t play the way they did last week and expect to win too many games — the special teams have to be cleaned up, a running game established, and the pass defense tightened. And while that game indicated that the Huskies are finding ways to win, they sure as heck can’t count on winning like that very often.
But, you also can’t discount that they are learning how to win. So in what looks like a tossup in a lot of areas, I’ll go with the time-honored tactic of siding with the team with the best player on the field and call it UW 24, ASU 20.