This game will undoubtedly serve as a barometer for where exactly the Sun Devils stand in the Pac-12 ranks.
In his weekly press conference on Monday, Arizona State head coach Todd Graham talked about the importance of the game this Saturday.
“This game is big; we’ve got to have all hands on deck,” he said. “(Washington) is extremely talented. I watched the film; a good receiving corps, really good running back, big huge offensive line, and the quarterback is very active and very good at extending plays. This is one of those games where we will find out exactly where we are at.
“If you want to see a great game, come watch this one because there’s going to be a lot of explosive athletes on the field and it’s going to be an exciting game to watch.”
Washington is coming into this week on a two-game losing streak after falling to No. 5 Stanford and No. 2 Oregon. Losing to two top ten programs may be a tough pill to swallow, but it won’t change the way people look at you as a team, and for Graham, that seems to be the case with Washington. He considers them to be among the top five teams in the Pac-12.
“Oregon, in my opinion, there isn’t a better team in the country than them,” Graham said. “So (Washington) got beat by a very good football team last week. And then they lost to Stanford, who’s a team that we played. How Stanford won that football game is getting turnovers on defense. They’ve lost to two really good opponents, top 10 teams in the country and I do think that Washington is one of the best teams in the Pac-12.”
There are many similarities between the Sun Devils (4-2, 2-1) and the Huskies (4-2, 1-2). Both teams have played comparable schedules in terms of strength of opponents, and both teams will attack you with quick hitting offense and will hurt you with their skill positions. And much like for ASU, Washington’s best playmaker is their running back, Bishop Sankey.
Sankey is certainly one of the top talents and has been garnering national attention for his potential to play in the NFL. So far this season, the Washington running back leads the nation in rushing yards with 899 and has scored in every game.
“I really like this guy,” Graham said of Sankey. “Everything he does, he does it extremely well and the effort that he gives, he’s extremely tough. I thought Tre Madden (USC) is the best back that we’ve played to this point and I thought an awful lot of the kid from Wisconsin… (Sankey) would probably be in those lines.
“He is the number one person that we have to stop; there is no question about it. He has big play capability, he’s just one of those guys that is going to make you tackle him, he isn’t just going to get hit and go down.”
A player that Graham has praised for his leadership and play on the field in the last couple of weeks has been senior defensive lineman Davon Coleman. For a guy that was in the doghouse with Graham for a majority of the 2012 season, Coleman has certainly turned things around and has provided significant depth along the defensive front for the Devils.
“I don’t know what changed because all of the sudden his lights come on,” Graham said. “I think obviously it means something to him and that’s why you keep pounding at it.
“His play has been all-conference Pac-12 level play, unblockable, doing great things. Been very, very impressive. Hopefully he can continue to do that.”
Graham went on to mention two other seniors that have stepped up and played key roles on this Sun Devil defense so far this season: Gannon Conway and Osahon Irabor. For those two, as well as the rest of the Arizona State seniors are on the home stretch in their Sun Devil careers.
“I told these kids the other day, ‘you’ve got 18 practices,’” Graham said. “’You’ve got six games left, that’s 18 practices guaranteed to you.’ It starts to hit you right about now. I remind them, ‘I want you to think about every player that’s played here, and everyone of them thought that they were going to go play ten years in the NFL, and how many of them did. You’re going to remember this time, no matter what you go and do. You’re always going to be a Sun Devil, you only got one place. And every single moment of your senior year you want to maximize it.’
“This is a very special group of seniors; they’ve been great to me. We’ve worked really hard together, and man I want them to achieve their goals.”
Graham said that De’Marieya Nelson will see some time (about 5 snaps) on defense against Washington in a pass rushing role.
There was no update on the status freshman safety Marcus Ball, but Graham did say that he’s supposed to hear on this topic later today.