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ASU Football: Graham sees Washington as a measuring stick

Todd Graham has the utmost respect for the Huskies and knows the Sun Devils will need to be on top of their game.

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona State Sun Devils have had an up and down first half to their 2013 season. They beat a ranked team on national television, and they lost to an unranked team on national television.

After six games, the team sits at 4-2, a record head coach Todd Graham is just fine with.

"I think we are exactly where I thought we would be, and that's in a great position," said Graham at his weekly Monday press conference.

The Sun Devils have not had a winning second half of the season since 2007, when they went 4-2 in their final six games in Dennis Erickson's first season. The second half of this season begins on Saturday, at home, against Washington.

The Huskies are also 4-2 on the season, starting 4-0 and losing back-to-back games to Pac-12 North rivals Stanford and Oregon.

"This is one of those games that we will find out exactly where we are at," said Graham. "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."

One key to victory on Saturday will be stopping Washington running back Bishop Sankey, who leads the nation with 899 rushing yards. The junior has run for over 160 yards in four games this season.

"You can watch him play and see that everything he does he does extremely well," said Graham. "He is the number one person we have to stop, there is no question about it. He has big play abilities. He's as good as there is in this league."

The Huskies boast the nation's 15th ranked rushing offense and 30th ranked passing offense. Quarterback Keith Price has thrown 12 touchdowns and four interceptions this season and the Huskies are averaging 35.1 points per game.

"I would consider Washington, from what I have seen on film, offensively and defensively they are one of the top 25 teams in the country," said Graham.

One new wrinkle that may be in play Saturday is using tight end De'Marieya Nelson on defense as a pass rushing specialist. Graham hinted at the move after Saturday's victory over Colorado and reaffirmed the notion on Monday.

"We are going to play 90-plus plays on defense and we need another pass rusher," Graham said. "He's a guy that can go over there with limited reps and I think be an impact to the quarterback."

News and Notes

  • Graham said that senior defensive lineman Davon Coleman has had his best two weeks of football since Graham took over as head coach. "I think Davon can see the end," said Graham. "He can see that it is coming to an end I think that's been the difference."
  • With so many backup players getting action against Colorado, Graham said one guy that really stood out to him was Ezekiel Bishop.
  • Graham said he was surprised with Utah's upset over Stanford, but not too surprised because he respects Utah coach Kyle Whittingham so much. Graham said Utah took some of what Washington did the week before and used it against the Cardinal. The Huskies lost by just three to Stanford in Palo Alto.