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ASU Football Opponent Primer: Washington Huskies

Here come the champs

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State 2017 Schedule

New Mexico State (Aug. 31) — Read

San Diego State (Sept. 9) — Read

At Texas Tech (Sept. 16) — Read

Oregon (Sept. 23) — Read

At Stanford (Sept. 30) — Read

Washington (Oct. 14)

At Utah (Oct. 21)

USC (Oct. 28)

Colorado (Nov. 4)

At UCLA (Nov. 11)

At Oregon State (Nov. 18)

Arizona (Nov. 25)

Washington’s 2016 season

The 2016 Washington Huskies entered the season with high expectations and fully exceeded them. The Huskies came out of the gates firing, dominating out of conference and taking it into Pac-12 play.

Washington made it all the way to the College Football Playoff semifinal, running roughshod through the Pac-12 Conference. The Huskies lost just once, 26-13 at USC, en route to a No. 4 finish in the CFP, earning them a matchup with vaunted Alabama.

The Huskies lost 24-7, but proved they were worthy of a spot in the playoff, setting them up for a possible return trip with key contributors back for another shot.

Key Returners

Junior QB Jake Browning — Browning had a dark horse Heisman Trophy campaign in 2016, throwing for 3,430 yards and 43 touchdowns. He improved tremendously from his freshman season and should continue to get better as the offensive corps matures around him.

Junior RB Myles Gaskin — Gaskin was a workhorse for Washington in 2016, just as he was his freshman season. He played all 14 games for the Huskies, carrying the ball 237 times for 1,373 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground and catching 19 passes for 137 yards and an additional score.

Sophomore DB Taylor Rapp — Despite accolades throughout the secondary, Rapp was possibly the most dynamic of the unit. He led the Huskies with four interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown. He will likely be leaned on as the leader of a group depleted by the NFL and full of young talent.

Biggest Losses

WR John Ross — Ross declared early for the NFL Draft and was taken by the Cincinnati Bengals with the 10th overall pick. He was a huge target last season, snagging 81 passes for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns, while scoring one more touchdown on a kickoff return. His production won’t be picked up by just one player, but the slack needs to be picked up by the offense if Washington wants to replicate last season’s success.

DB Budda Baker — Another player who left early for the pros, Baker was prolific on the backend for the Huskies in 2016. Baker led Washington in total tackles and tackles for a loss with 71 and 10 respectively and tallied three sacks and two interceptions, making plays all over the field.

DB Sidney Jones— Jones declared early, as well, after a good season on the outside. In 14 games, Jones broke up six passes, intercepted three more and forced two fumbles creating chaos for opposing offenses, setting up Browning and the offense for easy scores.

DB Kevin King— Last but not least, King is a third departure from last season’s defensive backfield. King led the team with 13 passes broken up while intercepting three passes.

Reason for Optimism

There aren’t many, considering just how many players Washington is returning, but maybe Huskies are still hungover from their Pac-12 title a season ago. The Huskies need to replace most of their secondary and just maybe the offense takes a step back with the loss of John Ross. If Washington can’t put everything together, the Sun Devils could come out with a win.

Reason for Pessimism

Washington is overall more talented across the board than the Sun Devils. The Huskies played far from their best game in 2016, and still ran ASU off the field with a 21-0 second quarter. The game coming right before Washington’s bye week does not bode well for the homestanding Sun Devils, especially if ASU plays to preseason expectations.