It's safe to say the Sun Devils' Pac-12 conference campaign has been a gauntlet so far.
Two weeks ago, the ASU football team was blown out by now No. 11 Utah Utes 34-13. Last Saturday, the Sun Devils were thrashed by the No. 6 team in the country, the USC Trojans, 42-25. The one-win Sun Devils return home this weekend to take on the No. 21 Washington Huskies.
"They're very fundamentally sound," said interim head coach Shaun Aguano Monday. "We're going to have to bring the attack to them."
The Huskies are led on offense by redshirt junior quarterback Michael Penix, Jr., who sits at the top of the list for passing yards in the entire FBS with 1,733. Penix, Jr. transferred to UW this year after spending four seasons at the University of Indiana.
The Huskies passing attack is supported by sophomore wide receivers Jalen McMillan and Rome Odunze, who each have over 400 receiving yards on the year so far and match each other in touchdowns with four each.
"They do a lot of shifts and motions that can get your eyes dirty, especially for linebackers," said fifth-year linebacker and co-captain Kyle Soelle after Tuesday's practice. "They have an offense that can do it all. We got to make sure we stay true to our keys and execute on defense."
The Huskies' formidable aerial-focused offense has led them to have the most yards per game in the Pac-12 and seventh in the nation with 506.6 compared to ASU's second to last 344.6. They are third in the Pac-12 in points per game with 41.6. The two teams in front of UW in that category are USC and Utah, the Sun Devils' previous two opponents.
Last Friday, Washington took a trip to the Rose Bowl to face the UCLA Bruins. The Huskies were ranked No. 15 at the time and were 4-0. A few hours later, they were 4-1 after UCLA went up 26-10 at the half and ended UW's undefeated start to the season, winning 40-32.
The Huskies' weakness was their defense, that let up 499 total yards in the game, including 124 rushing yards from Bruins' senior running back Zach Charbonnet. The poor run defense could be a key for ASU as graduate student running back Xazavian Valladay who is second in the Pac-12 in rushing yards with 455.
"We woke up to some of the things that UCLA did to them on Friday, but we can't do too much," said redshirt junior quarterback Emory Jones Wednesday. "They're gonna go over their film and make adjustments, so we are just gonna come in and do our job and be confident in our game plan."
Besides the Huskies' defense imploding in Los Angeles, it has been admissible this season, allowing 341.4 yards per game, ranking third in the Pac-12. Sophomore defensive lineman Bralen Trice has already racked up 4.5 sacks, the second most in the conference.
"They do a pretty good job in the open field tackling and running to the football," Aguano said Monday. "We need to make sure that from our perimeter standpoint, we stay on blocks and keep our hands inside all the fundamental things."
ASU's offense last week against USC conjured up some of the best production they've seen all year. At halftime, the Sun Devils were only down four points and had 208 yards of total offense on the sixth-best team in the country.
The offense did tail off in the second half, only gaining 144 total yards the rest of the game, but it showed improvement from Aguano's inaugural game against Utah, when the Sun Devils only mustered 83 total yards in the first half.
"I think the offense is definitely playing with more confidence," Aguano said. "Emory has realized that he doesn't have to make the brilliant plays. Just make the routine plays and get the playmakers the ball in their hands, and we'll be okay."
The Sun Devils and Huskies kick off at Sun Devil Stadium Saturday at 1 p.m. MST.
ASU goes into this game as the 14-point underdog. Two weeks from Saturday, they fly to California to take on Stanford. The Cardinals would be their first unranked opponent since the mutual parting of ways with former head coach Herm Edwards.
Edited by Walker Smith, Piper Hansen and Grace Copperthite.
Vincent Deangelis is a full-time reporter for the sports department at The State Press. He has previously worked for Arizona PBS and AZPreps365.com.