Huskies And Sun Devils Set To Tangle

Oct. 16, 2009


TEMPE, Ariz.

-- Arizona State and Washington each have three victories.

That's about where the similarities between them ends.

The Sun Devils (3-2, 1-1 Pac-10) have padded their record with victories over Idaho State, Louisiana-Monroe and Washington State. ASU's schedule ranks 101st in the nation, according to the Sagarin Football Ratings, one of the computer ratings used by the Bowl Championship Series.

The Huskies (3-3, 2-1) beat Idaho, then-No. 3 Southern California and Arizona, lost to then-No. 11 LSU by eight and took Notre Dame to overtime in South Bend. Their schedule strength? No. 1, according to Sagarin.

'After six games, sitting at 3-3, when you look at the quality of opponents we've played, I'm very proud of our football team,' Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. 'We've really improved. We've improved physically, we've improved mentally. And so I think our future's very bright.'

The present isn't too shabby either, thanks to quarterback Jake Locker, who is showing the form that made him one of the nation's most sought-after recruits.

Locker passes for 237.2 yards per game, second in the Pac-10. He's thrown for 10 touchdowns and has four interceptions.

With his elusiveness and arm strength, Locker has won comparisons to former Stanford star John Elway. He poses a big challenge to Arizona State's defense, which has allowed just 221 yards per game.

'The biggest improvement is how accurate he is when he throws it,' ASU coach Dennis Erickson. 'He is throwing the deep ball way better. He is a way better quarterback than he was two years ago.'

The combination of Locker and Sarkisian, hired away from USC, has transformed the Huskies almost overnight. They went 0-12 last year but played most of the season without Locker, who had a thumb injury.

'There is a feeling that we belong here, that the things that happen to us aren't luck,' Locker said. 'It's a product of the work that we put in and the effort we play with.'

Quarterback has been a sore spot for the Sun Devils, who have had trouble finding a worthy successor to longtime starter Rudy Carpenter.

Danny Sullivan, a senior, won the job in preseason camp but has done little to inspire confidence.

Sullivan is the league's eighth-ranked passer, completing 53.1 percent of his passes. He has more interceptions (5) than touchdown passes (4).

Last week, Sullivan led the Sun Devils to a shaky 27-14 victory at cellar-dwelling Washington State. Sullivan threw three interceptions, prompting renewed calls among ASU fans for Erickson to replace him with freshman Brock Osweiler

Osweiler completed 3 of 4 passes at Washington State but also fumbled a snap for one of ASU's six turnovers.

Sullivan was booed mercilessly during ASU's last home game, a 28-17 loss to Oregon State on Oct. 3. At one point, a 'We want Brock' chant went up from the student section, which emptied long before the game ended.

Erickson said Osweiler would play against the Huskies but didn't say when.

'It is going to be the feel of the game, how things are going,' Erickson said. 'I have trouble, personally, saying a guy is going in at the third series of the game, because if you have momentum going, you are moving the football extremely well, and now all of a sudden the third series comes up and you are going to make a change in quarterback. That just does not make sense to me, but he will play Saturday.'

It seems unlikely that Erickson will make a permanent switch at quarterback with the toughest stretch of the season coming up. After playing host to Washington, the Sun Devils visit improving Stanford next week. They also play sixth-ranked USC and No. 13 Oregon in consecutive weeks in November.

'Every game from here on out is going to be a grind,' Sullivan said. 'We have to make sure that we're ready for a long haul. We wish that every game would come easy, but if you look at the schedule and the way the conference is going, there are no easy games any more.'

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