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ASU Football Opponent Primer: Washington Huskies

Last year’s matchup was a thriller. What will the 2022 version in Tempe look like?

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

ASU’s 2022 Football Schedule

9/1: vs. NAU

9/10: @ #12 Oklahoma State

9/17: vs. Eastern Michigan

9/24: vs. #7 Utah

10/1: @ #14 USC

10/8: vs. Washington

10/22: @ Stanford

10/29: @ Colorado

11/5: vs. UCLA

11/12: @ Washington State

11/19: vs. Oregon State

11/25: @ Arizona

Sizing up Washington

The rain poured down as ASU clawed its way back from a 17-7 halftime deficit and won 35-30 in Seattle to beat Washington last November. A day later, the Huskies fired head coach Jimmy Lake, who was serving a suspension.

Kalen DeBoer, the head coach behind the explosive 2021 Fresno State offense, is now at the helm for Washington. He brings with him Michael Penix Jr., his quarterback from DeBoer’s play-calling days at Indiana in 2019.

DeBoer attacked the transfer portal like most coaches are doing in efforts to reload their teams without a massive recruiting overhaul. The Huskies’s measly 21.5 points per-game in 2021 was good for ninth-best in the Pac-12, so an injection of life on offense is necessary.

Key Returners

Washington returns its two receptions leaders from last year, Rome Adunze (41) and Jalen McMillan (39), and they both have experience catching footballs from left-handed quarterbacks. Like former five-star recruit Sam Huard, Penix is a lefty.

Adunze and McMillan will be the foundation for the pass-heavy offense that is on the way.

Tight end Devin Culp, who hauled in 20 receptions for 222 yards and a touchdown last year, will have the first shot at replacing Cade Otten, who left for the draft.

On defense, the Huskies are hoping to get a healthy Zion Tupuola-Fetui back on the edge. Tupuola-Fetui registered three multi-sack games for seven total sacks in the shortened-2020 season. Since then, he has battled injuries, but is expected to be healthy for week one.

The Huskies also bring back three lineman who are multi-year starters in Seattle. Jaxson Kirkland is an All-Pac-12 tackle, and guards Henry Bainivalu and Victor Curne are two-year starters.

Newcomers

The big one is Penix Jr. On paper, the Huskies have a loaded quarterback room, but anyone who watched Dylan Morris and Huard play over the last two years agrees the play at that position needs to improve to compete at the top of the conference.

It was unsurprising when DeBoer announced Penix Jr. will be the starter in 2022, as he has the most experience (20 games) in the room.

DeBoer also added New Mexico running back transfer Aaron Dumas, a 5-foot-9, 208 pound running back who rushed for 4.8 yards per-carry in 2021.

Linebacker Cam Bright is a transfer from Pittsburgh who has three years of starting experience, 9.5 sacks and 111 solo tackles under his belt.

Reasons why ASU could win

Both teams had a strong defensive identity in 2021 to make up for less-than-impressive offenses. For ASU, that image will not be too altered in 2022. Washington, however, is going through a face-lift.

Can the Sun Devils keep up with DeBoer’s high-octane offense? Will they even need to? At this point in the preseason, this is definitely in the category of “winnable” games for ASU, and could be one that makes or breaks a bowl game appearance.

We don’t know if Emory Jones and the offense can keep up in a shootout, so the clear route to victory is through a dominant defensive performance. The Husky offensive line is experienced, but still unproven. A strong showing from the ASU defensive line that pressures Penix could be disruptive enough for the offense to chip away.

Reasons why ASU could lose

Washington will throw the ball a lot, and to a number of receivers. More receivers means more defensive backs on the field. Safety and corner back are two of the biggest positions to watch for ASU after all four starters from last year left the program.

The group is currently thin, but it is likely starters Timarcus Davis and Jordan clark return by October. Washington will test this position group’s depth for the second week in a row after ASU plays USC. A high-scoring affair would likely tilt in favor of Washington. Merlin Robertson sealed the deal with a pick-six last year. Could he, or someone else, do it again?