FROM TEMPE — We’re situated in the press box here at Sun Devil Stadium, where it’s about 85 degrees and sunny. The walk from the hotel to the stadium was rather pleasant.
Anyway, as we sit here about two hours before kickoff, it’s time to pass along three keys to a possible Washington victory today.
1. No explosives — Maybe it’s just me, but it seems the word “explosive” — used as a noun — has become one of college football’s biggest buzzwords in recent years. The proliferation of better offenses might have something to do with it. Anyway, this was one of UW’s priorities last week against Oregon, and it’s obviously something the Huskies didn’t limit very well. That’s part of the reason the Ducks were able to accumulate 631 yards of total offense. Those same kind of big plays — a 35-yard QB scramble here, a 65-yard TD pass there — will be killer today against an ASU offense that scores 44 points per game.
2. Sankey, Sankey, Sankey — The Sun Devils’ defense hasn’t been bad this season, but it hasn’t been all that great against the run — they rank 9th in the conference in that category, allowing a shade more than 168 yards per game. Which means Bishop Sankey should probably be UW’s best offensive weapon today (as he is in most games). That goes doubly for trips inside the red-zone — if, say, the Huskies find themselves facing a 1st-and-goal at the 5-yard line.
3. Force 3-and-outs early — Steve Sarkisian said earlier this week that he plans to play quite a few backups due to the heat. And while the UW coach always expresses a great deal of confidence in his team’s conditioning, the temperature could take a toll on the Huskies’ defense if they’re on the field for long, grinding drives, especially early in the game. UW’s defense needs to be fresh going into the third quarter.
Here’s our game box that ran in today’s newspaper …
No. 20 WASHINGTON (4-2, 1-2 in Pac-12) at ARIZONA STATE (4-2, 2-1)
3 p.m., Sun Devil Stadium
TV: P12N. Radio: 950-AM.
The series: The series is tied, 15-15. ASU won, 24-14, in Seattle in 2010, and has won seven consecutive games vs. UW.
What to watch: Did you know the nation’s leading touchdown scorer plays for ArizonaState? Did you know his name is Marion Grice? It’s the truth. Grice’s name doesn’t come up in many “who’s the Pac-12’s best running back?” conversations, but maybe it should. He leads the Sun Devils with 395 yards rushing on 90 carries, and provides a dynamic weapon out of the backfield for QB Taylor Kelly to either hand off or throw to. Washington’s ability to keep an eye on him could dictate whether UW can hold ASU below its 44-point-per-game average.
The pick: ASU, 35-34.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
25 Bishop Sankey RB 5-10 203 Jr.
You may have heard this Sankey fellow is on pace to set some pretty impressive rushing records at UW. Against an ASU run defense that has been less than stellar this year, he has a chance to crack 1,000 yards in just his seventh game of the season.
88 Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE 6-6 276 Jr.
Sarkisian has been insistent that he’s not concerned at all by the fact that Seferian-Jenkins has caught just 16 passes, but the big tight end has shown he can be a major factor in the passing game. Will he get more targets?
75 Erik Kohler OL 6-4 294 R-Jr.
Kohler filled in for injured LG Dexter Charles last week against Oregon, and it appears he’ll be the starter this week with Charles still battling injury.
1 Sean Parker S 5-10 195 Sr.
Parker leads the team with three interceptions, and part of the reason the Huskies spent last week chasing Oregon all game was due to their losing the turnover battle.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
10 Taylor Kelly QB 6-2 201 R-Jr.
Big and difficult to tackle, so he’s a viable weapon in the spread rushing attack. But he throws for 327.5 yards per game, so his arm is of bigger concern.
90 Will Sutton DT 6-1 305 R-Sr.
Reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year chose to come back for his senior season, and is quite a disruptive force in the middle of ASU’s defensive line.
5 Chris Young OLB 6-0 240 Sr.
Was committed to UW before enrolling at JC. Now one of the Sun Devils’ better defenders.
21 Jaelen Strong WR 6-4 205 R-So.
Leads team with 42 catches for 678 yards and four touchdowns.
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple