The last time the Arizona State Sun Devils (2-3, 1-1 Pac-12) beat a ranked team isn’t out of reach — in September against No. 24 Oregon. Their last top-10 win came just two years prior in Pasadena, beating UCLA on 38-23 in October of 2015.
But the last time the Sun Devils beat a top-5 ranked opponent: Sept. 21, 1996 against No. 1 Nebraska.
On Saturday, the No. 5 Washington Huskies (6-0, 2-0 Pac-12) venture into Sun Devil Stadium equipped with a sound defense, veteran coach and most notably, talented quarterback Jake Browning.
“He’s a winner,” ASU head coach Todd Graham said. “He’s a championship quarterback, and as far as I’m concerned, he sets the standard in our league because you prove it on the football field every week.”
Browning, who is 25-8 overall as a starter, is 18-2 since the start of his sophomore season. From 2015 to 2016, Browning nearly tripled his touchdown total from 16 to 43 and almost doubled his team’s wins, from 7 to 12. He put the Huskies in the College Football Playoff last season, proving himself closer to a “championship quarterback.”
But what is most mind boggling is Browning’s efficiency. He won’t try to outpass teams.
His 244.3 passing yards per game rank seventh in the conference, and light years behind Pac-12 leading UCLA QB Josh Rosen who averages 427 passing yards per game. Even ASU QB Manny Wilkins is a major leap ahead, averaging 290.4 passing yards per performance.
But again, it isn’t about how much he throws it. In 2016, Browning had the 10th best quarterback rating in the country (81.3). His 2017 QBR (79) is 13th best in the nation and No. 1 among all current starting Pac-12 quarterbacks. He’s completed 123 of 173 pass attempts this season with a 70.5 percent completion rate, which is good for a Pac-12 best besides Luke Falk.
“Really solid decision maker. Extends plays a lot better than what you think he does. There’s a lot of guys who get a lot more attention, but he just wins football games,” Graham said. “Doesn’t require a lot of credit for it. That’s what I like about him. I really like his demeanor and his personality. You can tell he’s a high character kid.”
What has protected and complimented Browning’s Huskies to championship contending play are the men directly in front of him and sometimes beside of behind him. The offensive line has propelled the Huskies into a so far undefeated season.
Washington has given up just six sacks all season. The Sun Devils on the other hand, gave up seven sacks in a game alone against New Mexico State.
Defensively, Arizona State failed to record a single sack against Stanford, doing very little damage to the offensive line, and making easy leg room for Stanford running back Bryce Love, who had a career day with 301 yards on the ground.
Compared to Arizona State’s 647 rushing yards, the Huskies have attained over 1,000 yards on the season thanks not only to leading rusher Myles Gaskin (559 yards, eight touchdowns), but an extra push from its offensive line.
“They’re offensive line is very good. Very physical,” Graham said. “You gotta stop the run. I mean Gaskin is a really good back. Coleman is a really good back as well. I think where they’ve really matured is the offensive line.”
Going into Saturday’s matchup, Graham is well aware of the state of the Sun Devils. At 2-3, he admitted his team got off to a “slower start” than he’d like, but see’s the end of the season far more important than the beginning.
“Where everybody thinks everybody is in week one, it’s not. It’s where you are as you progress through the season. Where you are in November and you know how you’re team develops,” Graham said. “I think we played our best game against Oregon. We did some good things against Stanford. We didn’t tackle enough to win that game and they were the better team. But I feel confident in where we’re at.”