Following a trip to the College Football Playoff last year where they fell at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Washington came into this year with a purpose.
Criticized once again for scheduling soft out-of-conference competition, the Huskies are 6-0 and currently sit at No. 5 in the AP poll heading into this weeks matchup.
While Washington’s opponents may not have been the top of the talent pool to this point, there is no denying that the Huskies are once again a dominant force. They allow an average of just 10.2 points per game while scoring an average of 43.
Likely their most impressive win of the season so far, Washington marched into Boulder, Colorado and beat the reigning PAC-12 South champion Colorado Buffaloes 37-10.
Heading into their bye week next week before hosting UCLA, Washington will be looking for another convincing conference win for the playoff committee to think about.
If the Huskies want to do that, here’s who should play a large role:
Jake Browning - Junior QB
Coming off a 2016 campaign where he threw for just shy of 3,500 yards and 43 touchdowns, Browning has picked up right where he left off this season. Through six games, the Folsom, California native has thrown for 1,466 yards and 14 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions. In comparison to last season, however, his raw QBR is currently 83.6 which is seven points better than it was last year at 76.6. With a slew of targets to choose from and Myles Gaskin next to him in the backfield, Browning will look to carve up the ASU secondary as he did last year when he threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns. On the other hand, the Sun Devils did manage to pick Browning off twice last season so if the defensive front can get home for ASU, they could take advantage and potentially keep themselves in this game.
Myles Gaskin - Junior RB
Much like his quarterback, Gaskin has picked up pretty much right where he left off last season. Carrying the ball slightly less and catching it slightly more than last year, the local Seattle metro product’s numbers have been more productive thus far this season. Averaging 0.4 more yards per carry and already just two touchdowns shy of last years total, Gaskin is proving why he is considered one of the top backs in the nation. Although it is easy to be overshadowed on the offensive side of the ball by his quarterback in Browning, Gaskin is a silent, steady weapon for the Huskies and will definitely be given the ball in the red zone and other clutch situations. In last years game, Gaskin rushed for 127 yards on just 16 carries finding the end zone once, a stat line he will likely look to emulate this year. With ASU’s immense struggles against the run this season — emphasized by Bryce Love’s 300+ yard game two weeks ago — Gaskin will be a key player the Sun Devils will need to contain if they want any chance of shocking the nation and winning this game.
Ryan Bowman - Freshman (RS) Linebacker
Last season it was the secondary that really made a splash for the Huskies with such names as Kevin King, Buddha Baker and Sidney Jones (now all in the NFL). This season, the secondary has been just as good but someone that could make a huge impact is outside linebacker Ryan Bowman. As a redshirt freshman, Bowman leads the team in sacks with 3.5 and has also forced a fumble. With the struggles the ASU offensive line has had this year Bowman and others in the Huskies front seven could wreak havoc all game. When these two teams met up last year, Washington got home quite a bit, collecting six sacks and making life very hard for Manny Wilkins. A healthier, more experienced Wilkins will await the Huskies defense but if the offensive line can’t give him time, it might be a long game for the Sun Devils once again.
Coming off a bye week, the Sun Devils are well-rested and have been prepping for Washington for weeks now. Looking to get back in the win column following a poor performance in Palo Alto, ASU will need to slow down this Washington offense that is predicated on Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin if they want any chance of putting up a fight.