Washington is a 17.5-point pick over Arizona State Saturday night in Tempe (7:45 p.m., PT, ESPN) even though the Sun Devils have some compelling data in their favor. According to ESPN’s College Football Power Index, the Sun Devils will be the best team the Huskies have faced, having supplanted the previous best, Colorado.
After opening 3-0, Colorado lost to Washington 37-10 in Boulder and has since lost to UCLA (27-23) and Arizona (45-42). Arizona State (2-3, 1-1), on the other hand, knocked off one Top 25 team, beating No. 24 Oregon 37-35 in Tempe Sept. 23.
In addition, all of ASU’s losses, to No. 19 San Diego State (30-20), to No. 24 Texas Tech (52-45) and to No. 23 Stanford, (34-24) have come against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.
Arizona State is also 9-3 against the spread in its past 12 home games, has won six consecutive contests over the Huskies at Sun Devil Stadium (UW last won there in 2001, four coaches ago), and is 16-6 in its past 22 at home.
Arizona State is averaging 32.6 points per game and Washington is 43.0, which suggests a shootout. Trouble for ASU is, the Sun Devils are allowing 36.4, third-worst total in the Pac-12. Meanwhile, Washington is surrendering a conference-best 10.2, including two late-game touchdowns against reserves. Washington, 10-1 in its last 11 road games, has not permitted more than 16 points in a game.
UW’s average scoring is an improvement over 2016, when the 41.8 offensive average and 17.7 defensive average led the conference.
It appears that Washington will lead the Pac-12 in scoring defense again since the Huskies enjoy an 8.2-point edge over No. 2 Utah (18.4). The only school in the past decade to lead in scoring defense by more than five points: The 2014 Stanford Cardinal (16.4) over Oregon (23.6).
If the Huskies win the scoring title (Oregon and Washington meet in Seattle Nov. 4), Washington will be the first conference school to lead in scoring offense and scoring defense in back-to-back years twice.
|1954||UCLA||Red Sanders||40.8||4.4||National champs, 9-0 record|
|1955||UCLA||Red Sanders||28.5||5.7||9-2, lost Rose to Mich. St.|
|1990||Washington||Don James||35.8||12.6||10-2, won Rose over Iowa|
|1991||Washington||Don James||41.9||9.2||12-0 co-national champs|
|2002||USC||Pete Carroll||35.8||18.5||11-2, won Orange (Iowa)|
|2003||USC||Pete Carroll||41.8||18.4||12-1, won Rose (Michigan)|
|2004||USC||Pete Carroll||38.2||13.0||11-0, won Orange (Okla.)|
|2016||Washington||Chris Petersen||41.8||17.7||12-2, reached playoffs|
|2017||Washington||Chris Petersen||43.0||10.2||6-0, at Arizona St. Saturday|
Based on their 12-0 record and co-national championship, the 1991 Huskies are the greatest team for a single season in school history, although the 2016 Huskies probably rank as a close second after reaching the national playoffs, a first.
The 2017 Huskies are a scant better than the 1991 team based entirely on the difference between points scored and points allowed. The ’91 team, starring QB Billy Joe Hobert and WR Mario Bailey, scored 41.9 points per game and surrendered, with DT Steve Emtman in the middle, 9.2.
In NCAA stats, the Huskies are third nationally in offensive efficiency despite the fact that QB Jake Browning has thrown nine fewer TD passes through six games this year (14) than he did through six last year.
The top differentials in points scored vs. points allowed for Washington’s most highly regarded conference championship teams (2017 listed for comparison purposes):
|2017||Chris Petersen||43||10.2||32.8||6-0, 3-0, tied for first Pac-12 North|
|1991||Don James||41.9||9.2||32.7||12-0, shared national title with Miami|
|2016||Chris Petersen||41.8||17.7||24.1||12-2, lost to Alabama in Peach Bowl|
|1990||Don James||35.8||13.6||22.2||10-2, beat Iowa 46-34 in Rose Bowl|
|1984||Don James||29.5||11.6||17.9||11-1, beat Oklahoma in Orange Bowl|
|1960||Jim Owens||23.1||9.1||14.0||10-1, beat Minnesota 17-7 in Rose Bowl|
|1959||Jim Owens||19.0||5.9||13.1||10-1, beat Wisconsin 44-8 in Rose Bowl|
|1977||Don James||28.8||15.8||13.0||10-2, defeated Michigan in Rose Bowl|
If the Huskies can keep their scoring defense number under 12, they would become one of the elite defenses in recent conference history. Since 1970, only 1974 USC (11.4), 1978 USC (11.8), 1992 Washington (9.2), 1992 Arizona (8.9) and 2008 USC (9.0) held opponents to fewer than 12 points per game.
Whatever UW’s final number, the back-to-back years will be remarkable, since the 2016 Huskies had three members of the secondary — Budda Baker, Sidney Jones and Kevin King — taken in in the first 11 picks of the second round in the NFL draft.