Huskies, Sun Devils seeking crucial win

Oct 18, 2013, 12:01 PM | Updated: 12:46 pm

Washington quarterback Keith Price (17) looks to pass in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Oregon as Washington's Micah Hatchie blocks at right, Saturday, Oct. 12, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)


By John Marshall
AP College Football Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. — No. 20 Washington lost to a pair of top-five teams and faces another difficult test Saturday on the road against Arizona State.

The Huskies haven’t handled tough stretches in the schedule like this particularly well in the past, losing three or more games in a row in each of their first four seasons under coach Steve Sarkisian.

This season, Coach Sark doesn’t see the same team that’s wilted under the pressure in the past.

The Huskies are 4-2, still ranked No. 20 in the country and their two losses were to Stanford, which was No. 5 in the country at the time, and second-ranked Oregon.

“I think we are a little bit more mentally tough than we have been in years past,” Sarkisian said. “I think guys kind of embrace this role of going on the road now. It will be another great challenge. I think that they see this more as an opportunity than a challenge. We have an opportunity to do something really cool on the road Saturday.”

Arizona State (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) is also looking at Saturday’s game as an opportunity – another in a season filled with plenty already.

The Sun Devils have one of the nation’s toughest schedules this season and their recent four-game stretch was as difficult as any team anywhere will face.

Arizona State had an uneven run through the gantlet, beating Wisconsin and Southern California while losing to Stanford and Notre Dame.

The Sun Devils are still in the thick of the Pac-12 race, a half-game behind UCLA in the South, and certainly don’t want to lose their first home game of the season against the Huskies.

“This is one of those games that we will find out exactly where we are at,” Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. “It doesn’t matter what you think, it matters what you do. This is a huge game because you find out where you are at in the league. We have to win this game.”

Here are five things to watch for when the Sun Devils and Huskies meet in the desert.

THE BISHOP RULES: Washington running back Bishop Sankey appears to be well on his way to shattering all of Washington’s single-season rushing marks. He ran for 1,439 yards as a sophomore last season, the third-highest total in program history, and already has 899 yards in six games this season. Sankey also has nine touchdowns and is the nation’s leading rusher at 149.8 yards per game. He certainly could add to those totals on Saturday against an Arizona State team that’s struggled to stop the run.

TEMPO, TEMPO: Arizona State has been one of the nation’s fastest teams since Graham took over as coach last season, often snapping the ball right after the official places it on the ground. Washington has adopted a similar snap-before-they’re-set philosophy this season, so expect a fast-moving game Saturday. And there might be a few big plays, too: Washington is eighth nationally with 526.8 yards of total offense per game and Arizona State is 18th at 496.5.

STRONG SEASON: One of Arizona State’s biggest additions this season has been receiver Jaelen Strong. After sitting out last season, the transfer from Pierce College has become the Sun Devils’ big-play threat, gaining a first down on 28 of his 42 receptions while averaging 16.1 yards per catch. Strong is 12th nationally with 113 yards receiving per game and has 678 through the first six games.

SUN DEVILS’ STREAK: Washington has not had much luck against the Sun Devils recently. Arizona State has won the last seven meetings at Sun Devil Stadium, the last one a 24-17 victory in 2010. The last time Washington beat the Sun Devils was 2001, when it pulled out a 33-31 win in Seattle. Arizona State has not lost at home this season and needs three wins to go undefeated at home for the second time (with 2004) in 16 seasons.

TURNOVER BATTLE: Washington has turned it over eight times this season, but only once has it led to points. Arizona State has forced 15 turnovers this season and scored points 80 percent of the time after, including eight touchdowns. The Sun Devils are pretty good at limiting the damage of their turnovers, too, outscoring opponents 68-20 on points off turnovers this season.

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