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ASU Football: Washington players to watch

A new-look, explosive offense

NCAA Football: Washington at UCLA Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Well, at least we don’t have to worry about USC anymore. Specifically, Caleb Williams and his Herculean performance at the Coliseum last weekend.

As surprising as it was to see the Sun Devils actually compete against a top-10 team who’s in contention for a playoff spot, it was tough to watch the Trojans’ QB dice up the defense like he did.

The past is the past, and this week ASU (1-4, 0-2 Pac-12) is going head to head with one of the only teams that can challenge USC for the Pac-12 championship. It’s time to talk about the no. 21 Washington Huskies (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12 ), and who you can expect to bring the business on Saturday afternoon.

Washington started the season on a four-game win streak, taking down Michigan State and Stanford in weeks three and four, respectively. Head coach Kalen DeBoer has turned his pack of Huskies into a highly-potent offense that’s showing signs of being able to do it against top teams around the country.

Yes, Washington lost last week to Dorian Thompson-Robinson and the UCLA Bruins in a shootout. But, the numbers on this team don’t lie. The Huskies offense is ranked seventh in the country in total yards per game, averaging over 500 yards every week (UCLA is ranked right behind them).

It can be argued that DeBoer’s immediate impact on Washington’s program has been just as huge as Lincoln Riley in Southern California. He brought in some real talent to raise the program above the 4-8 record they finished with last season under Jimmy Lake.

There are a few big reasons for Washington’s success so far this season, and it all starts with who’s under center for the Huskies.

#9 Michael Penix Jr. - QB

I think a lot of people would tell you what I’m about to; it’s remarkable what Penix Jr. is doing up in Seattle. He is leading one of the nation’s top offenses, and they’re doing it off of his left arm. The 6-foot-3-inch junior Indiana transfer is lighting up the field with accurate and aggressive looks down the field possession after possession.

He leads the nation in passing yards.

I do not have to say that twice, but the exact number is 1,733 at approximately 347 per-contest.

DeBoer and Penix Jr. seem to really understand what each is trying to do. At his best, Penix Jr. is in the shotgun or pistol with his running back with him for some type of RPO, or play action pass. His receivers are doing a great job of separating across the middle of the field and up the sidelines and the lefty is making defenses pay.

Washington is an offense that sets up the run by throwing the football and pushing the issue down field. Penix Jr. has thrived so far in this offense, and the guy he’s got lined up outside can do some damage as well.

#1 Rome Odunze - WR

Odunze is coming off of back-to-back 115-plus yard games. Against Stanford, Odunze went for a casual 161 with a 61 yard bomb for a TD. Last week at the Rose Bowl, he caught two touchdowns in their failed effort to make a comeback, including one on the first drive of the game. But this guy has the talent to take the top off of your defense.

Odunze has four touchdowns in four games played this season on 26 receptions. He doesn’t care about tight coverage either, he just wants the ball more than you. So, if you throw it up to him, he’s going to do everything he can to get it (including a little hand fighting with the corner). Odunze is a pretty filled out 6-foot-3-inches and 201 pounds, but you don’t want to let him into open space for a catch and run.

Other receivers like Jalen McMillan are not to be slept on either. McMillan gets just as many looks as Odunze does in this offense with 428 receiving yards and four touchdowns. So, don’t be surprised if he rattles off a big play or two.

The only real way to stop Washington right now is by getting to their defense early and often and never slowing down. If Washington gets a lead on you, it’s going to be very difficult to come back. If ASU can get a lead, they’ll have to keep pace for the rest of the game.

It’s not going to be easy with a guy like Bralen Trice lining up against the Sun Devil offensive line.

#8 Bralen Trice - EDGE

Trice is a Phoenix native, so, shoutout to him and his family who I’m sure will be at this game. The Sandra Day O’Conner alum also got 4.5 sacks through the first five weeks of the season. He’s got, as the scouts would say, a high motor.

At 6-foot-4-inches and 256 lbs, lined up on the guard, tackle or tight end, it doesn’t really matter where they put him. DeBoer’s defensive staff has done a great job of getting him into stunts with other D-linemen to free him up in space and get to the quarterback. He didn’t have a sack last week against the elusive DTR, but he had two the week prior against Stanford.

I’m not saying he’s going to win the game by himself, but on a team that is so well known for defensive backs, look for Bralen Trice to do some damage inside the tackle box. It is a homecoming for him, after all.

Other Notes:

  • Defensive backs Keon and Kejuan Markham have officially entered the transfer portal after sitting out for personal reasons dating back to Herm Edwards’s departure. Kejaun Markham had one interception this year.
  • ASU is 12-2 against UW in their last 14 matchups. The Huskies have not won in Tempe since 2001.
  • The only two injury designations on this week’s depth chart are for defensive lineman Omar Norman-Lott and right tackle Des Holmes. Both are listed as game-time decisions.