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ASU Football Opponent Primer: Washington Huskies

A premier road matchup for ASU against UW for the first time in three years.

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

ASU’s 2021 Schedule

Sep. 2: vs. Southern Utah (Thu.)

Sep. 11: vs. UNLV

Sep. 18: @ BYU

Sep. 25: vs. Colorado

Oct. 2: @ UCLA

Oct. 8: vs. Stanford (Fri.)

Oct. 16: @ Utah

Oct. 30: vs. Washington State

Nov. 6: vs. USC

Nov. 13: @ Washington

Nov. 20: @ Oregon State

Nov. 27: vs. Arizona

Washington’s 2020 Season

Washington’s campaign in 2020 looked a lot like Arizona State’s; Plagued by Covid cancelations. The Huskies managed to sneak in just four games, winning three. There was hope for a brief moment, as Washington claimed the Pac-12 North title with a chance at its second conference title in three years.

But the Huskies could not escape the Covid bug, and did not have enough available players on the roster to fit the minimum criteria required to compete. In heartbreaking fashion, Washington was a division winner, but would not play for a Pac-12 title.

However, head coach Jimmy Lake will have most of his team returning in 2021 to run it back in the Pac-12 North. Additionally, the country will have a good look at where the program stands following a relatively successful 2020 season, when they travel to the Big House in Ann Arbor to take on Michigan in a marquee Week Two matchup.

Regardless, the nation has high expectations for Lake in his second season in Seattle with a preseason AP Poll ranking of 20.

Key Returners

If you count the entire running back committee, Washington returns 10 offensive starters from last season. All five starting offensive linemen will be back for 2021, including first-team All-Pac-12 tackle Jaxson Kirkland.

This will be paramount for the development of redshirt-sophomore quarterback Dylan Morris in his second season as starting signal-caller. Morris was an efficient game-manager in a run-heavy Husky offense, throwing four touchdowns to three interceptions on a 60.9 completion rate. He should show improvement in 2021 behind an experienced offensive-line and a returning cast of characters on the outside.

Speaking of, Morris will have his favorite target and Husky touchdown-leader Cade Otton back for another season. Otton, a first-team All-Pac-12 tight end last year, is one of the premier pass-catchers and blockers in the conference.

The majority of skill-position players will be back on offense, but a standout-receiver has yet to be established. The experienced running back tandem of Covid-seniors Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant will return for their sixth seasons, with help from Richard Newton, who scored 11 times in 2019.

Biggest Losses

Depth at linebacker and holes at defensive back will be the biggest question marks heading into the fall for UW. Defensive end Levi Onwuzurike, and defensive backs Elijah Molden and Keith Taylor, all left for the league via the draft, and their replacements are still to be established.

This past spring, All-American linebacker and Husky sack leader Zion Tupuola-Fetu ruptured his achilles in spring practice and likely will not play this fall. Filling that hole on the outside will be tricky for Bob Gregory, who was recently promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator.

Reason Why ASU Could Win

If the questions at defensive back do not get resolved by the Week 11 matchup against ASU, Washington could really struggle in an air-attack led by quarterback Jayden Daniels as his chemistry grows with his younger receiving corps. If ASU finds a way to score in bunches, it is unlikely that the Husky offense can keep up.

Arizona State (23.2 ppg) and Washington (25.0 ppg) were the best two defenses in terms of scoring last year in the Pac-12. If that trend continues, expect a low-scoring affair in Tempe. While both teams return the majority of their defensive starters, Washington has just a few more questions than ASU in the defensive backfield.

Reason Why ASU Could Lose

Jimmy Lake is not quiet about his offense’s run-first approach, something that could carry them to a victory against ASU. The Sun Devils gave up over 180 yards per game on the ground last year, and allowed almost two rushing touchdowns per game.

If we continue to see improvement from nose tackle D.J. Davidson and preseason All-Pac-12 defensive tackle Jermayne Lole, the overall run defense should take a leap as well.

It is also worth noting ASU has not exited Husky Stadium with a win since October 24, 2014. It will be over seven years since that victory when the Sun Devils and Huskies face-off in November. This will be their first matchup since Washington won 27-20 in September of 2018.