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ASU Football: The Cynical Sun Devil takes on Washington

Arizona State gets back its starting quarterback for this Saturday's tilt at Washington. What could still go wrong for the Sun Devils?

Christian Petersen

Well, consider me a humbled man. Last week I wrote about how Stanford was simply more talented than Arizona State and how the Cardinal defense would be the best unit to step on the field. Rather, it was the Sun Devil defense, and a 26-10 victory has Arizona State back in the top 15 of the AP and Coaches Polls.

All of this is pretty insane, considering the past few weeks that the program endured. From doom and gloom after UCLA to "whew, that was lucky" after USC to "wait, we're still in position to win the Pac-12 South?" after Stanford, the tide has seemingly turned on the Sun Devil season.

But you wouldn't think I'd go down that easy would you? No, for we've seen many a Sun Devil team follow up statement wins like this with disappointing performances. Both of last year's Stanford losses came after either a huge victory (Wisconsin victory in September) or a long winning streak to end the regular season. The year before, Arizona State opened up 5-1 before skidding back to .500.

Washington is by no stretch as good a team on paper as Arizona State, but the Huskies are still in the thick of the Pac-12 North race at 5-2 and are led by standout linebacker Shaq Thompson. I covered Thompson a bit in high school back in Sacramento when he starred at Grant and actually competed against him in track and field (I use compete very lightly), and even the awkward 15-year-old me could tell he was going to be playing on Sundays very soon. Thompson's a game wrecker, as he's scored four defensive touchdowns this season.

With injuries at running back, Thompson has been getting some reps at that position in practice, and he had a rushing score earlier in the season. At 6-foot-1 and 228 pounds, Thompson's a gamechanger wherever he plays on the field and could take advantage of a rusty Taylor Kelly.

The Cynical Sun Devil's Worst Case Scenario

Todd Graham is a man of the people. The Sun Devil head coach delivers pizza to Camp Fargoers, he pumps up students at rallies and events and because of that (and the 23-10 record he's amassed since taking over in Tempe), he's a very popular guy in Tempe. Graham is also very cognizant of his popularity, and strives to keep on the good side of every Sun Devil fan.

So when Mike Bercovici broke the losing streak against Stanford by operating an efficient Sun Devil attack, the backup quarterback's fan base only grew. Clamors of "Twerko for Berco" and "My Ouija says Vici" begin to grow as more and more Arizona State fans jump on the Bercovici bandwagon. Graham knows that he can't keep captain Taylor Kelly on the bench, so he devises a system to keep both fans of Bercovici and Kelly happy. Rather than implement the classic two-quarterback system where he'd give Kelly one series then replace with Bercovici and rinse and repeat, Graham develops his own two-quarterback system. What is this system you ask? He just plays them both, at the same time.

Yep, when Arizona State trots out there for its first offensive series, Graham sends both Kelly and Bercovici to the starting huddle. Both line up in the backfield, and both act as if they're getting ready to catch the snap. Graham runs a few plays in this two-quarterback formation, with Bercovici getting the ball on first down while Kelly gets it on second. Graham's system produces an early touchdown when Kelly fakes a pitch to Bercovici and runs for a 32-yard score, but the system soon falls apart as neither Bercovici or Kelly can tell who is supposed to get the ball and collide with each other trying to corral a snap, resulting in a Thompson scoop-and-score. Thompson also rushes for two touchdowns on offense and the Huskies hand a 35-10 defeat to Graham's Sun Devils.

After the game, Graham tells reporters "I thought they wouldn't know which guy was gonna get the ball. I guess our guys didn't know either."