Arizona State Sun Devils (5-1, 3-1) vs. Washington Huskies (5-2, 1-2)
Kickoff: 7:45 p.m. PT/10:45 p.m. ET
Location: Seattle, Washington - Husky Stadium
Television: ESPN (Mark Jones, Rod Gilmore, Jessica Mendoza)
Radio: Midfirst Bank Sun Devil IMG Sports Network (Tim Healy, Jeff Van Raaphorst, Doug Franz)
Weather: Saturday in Seattle calls for a high of just 61-degrees and a low of 52-degrees. There is a 90-percent chance of rain and 82-percent humidity.
Series History: Arizona State leads the all-time series 16-15, the Sun Devils have won the past eight meetings with Washington's last victory coming in 2001.
Washington's Season to Date: The Huskies currently sit at 5-2 in Chris Petersen's first season in Seattle. Washington began the season by beating Hawaii and Eastern Washington by a combined eight points. The Washington defense surrendered 52 points, 475 passing yards and seven passing touchdowns to the Eagles of Eastern Washington.
The Huskies improved to 4-0 with blowout victories over Illinois (44-19) and Georgia State (45-14), who have a combined record of 4-10 this year. Washington suffered its first setback of the year with a 20-13 loss to Stanford at home, rebounded with a 31-7 victory over Cal on the road and suffered their second loss in three weeks to Oregon by a score of 45-20 last week.
Washington ranks last in the conference in total offense and passing offense. The Huskies rank No. 11 in the conference in passing defense and No.5 in the conference in total defense.
Arizona State on offense: For the first time since Sept. 13, Taylor Kelly will play in a game for the Sun Devils. Todd Graham told the media on Monday that he expected Kelly to be ready for Washington.
However, Mike Bercovici may see some snaps on Saturday according to Graham. Despite Kelly not throwing a pass in over a month, his head coach does not see the redshirt sernior showing any rust against the Huskies.
"That is why you have to practice, you have to practice to get your timing back. It is all about getting reps, but I don't think he will have any problems," said Graham. "The main thing is that he is healthy, physically. I am not worried it is just a matter of practicing and getting his timing and rhythm back. It is interesting though how diverse their talents are collectively."
The Sun Devils rank No.11 in the nation in passing offense, much of that is due to Bercovici's 510 yards against USC. However, Arizona State's rushing offense, which was top 10 nationally earlier in the year, has fallen to No. 40 in the nation. D.J. Foster has not eclipsed 100 yards on the ground since his 147-yard effort against Colorado.
The Washington front seven boasts two of the best defensive players in the conference. Danny Shelton and Hau'oli Kikaha have combined for 20 sacks this season, the most of any two teammates in the nation. Kikaha leads the nation in both sacks (12.5) and tackles for loss (15.5).
Perhaps the key to the Washington defense is outside linebacker Shaq Thompson. The junior has scored four defensive touchdowns this season, ranks second in the nation in forced fumbles and fifth in fumble recoveries. The secondary is led by junior cornerback Marcus Peters, who is one the watch list for both the Jim Thorpe award (best DB) and the Nagurski (best defensive player).
OC Nick Kelly vs. NT Danny Shelton: This matcup could even be Shelton against the entire interior of the offensive line as the senior nose tackle is one of the best defensive linemen in the conference. Against Eastern Washington, Shelton tallied four sacks and 12 tackles, those are incredible numbers for a interior defensive lineman.
Washington employs a 3-4 defense so Shelton will lineup inside across from either Kelly, Christian Westerman or Vi Teofilo. Shelton ranks No. 5 in the nation in sacks and is tied for fourth in tackles for loss. The Sun Devils need to try to keep Shelton out of the backfield and away from Taylor Kelly and D.J. Foster.
OT Jamil Douglas/Tyler Sulka vs. OLB Shaq Thompson/Hau'oil Kikaha: Washington has two of the best outside linebackers in the nation. Kikaha leads the nation with 12.5 sacks and Thompson is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the nation. Kikaha had three sacks each against Illinois and Cal and he needs one sack on Saturday to become Washington's all-time sack leader.
Thompson just always seems to be around the football. Against California, he tallied 11 tackles and returned a fumble 100 yards for a touchdown. The Sun Devils must protect Taylor Kelly against the dangerous Washington defenders.
Arizona State on defense: The Sun Devils played their most complete game of the season on defense against Stanford. The defense allowed just 10 points and surrendered just 76 yards on the ground. However, the Sun Devils still rank last in the conference against the rush and No. 8 in scoring defense.
There have been several surprises on the Arizona State defense thus far. Jordan Simone has transformed from walk-on to superstar and Damarious Randall is leading the nation in solo tackles per game. Laiu Moeakiola is tied for the team lead in sacks and is second on the team in tackles for loss.
"He stabilizes things, he is a really smart player," said Graham about Moeakiola. "He's got a vast knowledge of what we are doing, conceptually he really understands the whole picture of what we are trying to do. "He is one of the smartest players that I have been around and he is a great technician. He just grades out well and doesn't make mistakes. That's really a stabilizer at that position."
The Sun Devils have shifted Antonio Longino from SPUR linebacker to WILL linebacker and the change has payed off. Longino led the Sun Devils in tackles against Stanford and stood out in run support.
"I thought Tony (Longino) played his best game, and I am very proud of him and how he has progressed," said Graham. "He is a very physically strong person, and is a very tough guy. I was really happy for him, and he works really hard. He is one of my favorite guys out there, and is someone who has taken the path less traveled in order to get here, and he's a tremendous young man."
QB Cyler Miles vs. ASU Secondary: Miles averages just 6.64 yards per attempt, meaning Washington likes to use the short, intermediate passing game. Miles has only thrown one interception this season and is completing 66-percent of his passes.
One of the reasons Arizona State was so successful against Stanford is they were able to affect Kevin Hogan, forcing him to complete just 19 of 39 passes. Led by Damarious Randall, the Sun Devil secondary played its best game of the season against Stanford.
This is not an easy game for Taylor Kelly to return in, as conditions in Seattle call for rain and low temperatures. Because of the wet conditions, look for the Sun Devils to try to establish the running game with Foster and Deantre Lewis early on.
The Washington defense will be the most athletic defense that the Sun Devils have faced all season. They can get after the quarterback and boast the Pac-12's No. 3 rushing defense. Shelton is the key along the interior of their line and Thompson is always around the football.
Up to this point in the season, Washington has beaten the teams it was supposed to beat and lost to the teams it was supposed to lose to. Expect that trend to continue as Arizona State pulls one out in the rainy Northwest.
Final Score: Arizona State 31, Washington 23