Though quite a bit overhyped on a national level, senior quarterback Jake Locker, when at his best, is one of the premier overall athletes in college football.
At times he has been statistically inconsistent in the passing game and had multiple injury issues early in his career, Locker enters this contest on the heels of a sensational performance at USC. In total, Locker has completed 53.8 percent of his passes for 936 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions while adding 211 net yards and two scores in the rushing game.
If necessary, redshirt freshman Keith Price is UW's top reserve at quarterback.
A 1,000-yard back in 2009, Polk is back on that same track with 356 yards and three touchdowns in four games, while also being an adequate figure in the pass game. True freshman Jesse Callier has earned time this season after arriving on campus early and has tallied 163 yards on 28 carries through four games.
Behind Locker, Polk and Callier, Washington has only totaled four carries, with only one coming at the hands of a tailback.
A key reason for success that Locker has had in the passing game is the All-America caliber performances by Kearse, the Pac-10's current leading receiver that averages over 107 receiving yards per game, good for ninth in the country. With a total of 430 yards on 22 catches with five touchdowns, Kearse has clearly emerged as one of the most outstanding pass catchers in college football.
Though Kearse has caught fire quickly in 2010, UW's receiving corps isn't a one-man band, as teammate Devin Aguilar has caught 18 passes for 231 yards with two touchdowns and is a highly capable target if teams opt to focus their coverage on Kearse.
Veteran receiver D'Andre Goodwin, a former All-Pac-10 player, has caught six passes for 59 yards, while Cody Bruns and Jordan Polk have also seen duty. After a standout true freshman season last year, sophomore James Johnson has been very quiet in 2010 with only one three-yard reception to his credit.
True freshman Kevin Smith has a high ceiling of potential but hasn't been featured much in the pass game thus far.
Following the offseason dismissal of Kavario Middleton, Chris Izbicki became the clear-cut starting tight end and provides Locker with a capable receiving target. Marlion Bennett stands as the primary reserve at tight end, while senior Austin Sylvester is listed as the team's starter at fullback.
The Husky offensive line features a blend of youth and experience, as senior right tackle Cody Habben and senior right guard Ryan Tolar have the veteran edge, with junior left tackle Senio Kelemete, sophomore center Drew Schaefer and true freshman left guard Erik Kohler also being listed among the first-team line.
As has been the case since he arrived in the Husky lineup, Washington will go as far as Locker goes. In some cases that has meant surprising, statement victories and in others it has meant disappointing losses. Though UW's struggles recently have mainly been a product of poor defense, some of Locker's decisions in the passing game have haunted him, but his overall athleticism can't be underestimated.
With the presence of talented athletes such as Polk, Kearse and Aguilar, Locker doesn't have to make every play on his own, when under the pressure of a persistent defense he can be prone to mistakes.
If Washington's offensive line is able to keep the Sun Devil pressure at bay as Oregon State did last week, Locker has the talent and resources to make ASU pay. However, if the Devils can push past the Husky blockers and bother Locker behind the line of scrimmage, he can be forced into hasty decisions and potentially commit mistakes.
A few primary targets that could be menacing to ASU are UW's starting wide receiver combo of Aguilar and Kearse as well as Izbicki. Though Izbicki hasn't been a dominant performer this year, ASU has had an Achilles ' heel in opposing tight ends, as has been shown by the performances of Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks, Oregon's David Paulson and Oregon State's Joe Halahuni.
On the defensive line, Washington features a veteran group in senior Cameron Elisara (five tackles) and junior Alameda Ta'amu (eight tackles, 0.5 sacks) at tackle and junior Everrette Thompson (eight tackles, 1.0 sack) and sophomore Talia Crichton (10 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 sack) at end.
Youngsters Semisi Tokohali (two tackles, 1.0 TFL), Chris Robinson and Sione Potoa'e (three tackles, 1.5 sacks) add depth at tackle, while senior De'Shon Matthews (two tackles), true freshman Hau'oli Jamora (10 tackles, 1.0 TFL) and junior Kalani Aldrich (one tackle) are the primary reserves at the two end slots.
The most significant contributors of the Husky defense are in the team's group of linebackers, led by surefire all-conference candidate Mason Foster (48 tackles, 3.5 TFL) at outside linebacker and talented inside linebacker Cort Dennison (22 tackles), while converted safety Victor Aiyewa (29 tackles, 3.5 TFL) is slated to start at outside ‘backer opposite Foster.
With few upperclassmen in the rotation, UW's secondary has a wealth of future potential as multiple talented newbies have earned substantial time the past two years.
At cornerback, sophomore Desmond Trufant (14 tackles, two pass breakups) has emerged into one of the league's better coverage specialists, with junior Quinton Richardson (11 tackles, two pass breakups) slated to start on the other side of the field. Senior Vonzell McDowell (two tackles), sophomore Adam Long (two tackles) and true freshman Gregory Ducre (four tackles, one interception) fill out the remainder of the depth chart at cornerback.
Three of the four safeties in the team's two-deep have fewer than two full college seasons under their belt, with starting strong safety Nate Williams (35 tackles, 3.0 TFL), a senior, standing as the eldest safety.
Sophomore Nate Fellner (32 tackles) saw ample activity as a true freshman last year and slid into the starting free safety position this year with redshirt freshman Will Shamburger (five tackles, 1.0 TFL) as his primary contingent.
Sean Parker, perhaps the top recruit to sign with Washington this past year, backs up Williams at strong safety and has a world of potential for his college career.
Much to the dismay of Washington's developed offense; its defense has remained a major liability.
Statistically, UW allows 32.5 points per game and over 440 yards of offense with only one interception. There is very little star power throughout the defense and one would think that ASU could create a stable edge when going against Washington's defense, however UW's defensive numbers are strikingly similar to Oregon State's when the Sun Devils tripped to Corvallis, Ore., a week ago.
The obvious keys rest between the ears and in the throwing arm of ASU quarterback Steven Threet, as accuracy is an absolute must if the Devils wish to return to the win column, especially in the red zone.
Also, Washington's defensive line doesn't have the horsepower that Oregon State's does, as the Beavers wreaked havoc on ASU's interior line, but Washington has talented linemen that can take advantage of opportunities if ASU's blocking schemes are inadequate.
All-in-all, with the exception of Mason Foster, Washington doesn't have the talent to force ASU into compromising circumstances, but if the Sun Devils continue to suffer from self-inflicted pain, UW can capitalize.
Also, the Seattle crowd undoubtedly will be geeked after UW's massive win at USC last week, which provides an additional factor that ASU will have to combat in its attempt to play sound football with limited errors.
Special Teams Preview
At kicker, Washington features one of the better performers in the Pac-10 in Erik Folk, a player known for clutch kicks in pressure situations.
The brother of former Arizona kicker Nick Folk, Erik has been dialed in this season, connecting on all seven field goal attempts and all 12 extra point tries. No kick this season has meant more than his 32-yard game winner last week at USC, earning Folk Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
After taking over for the injured Will Mahan, Kiel Rasp has averaged 45.3 yards on 16 punts with three downed inside the 20-yard line.
Washington has yet to make much of a mark in the return game, as Devin Aguilar and Kevin Smith have combined for only 29 yards on four punt returns, while Smith has taken the greatest share of time on kickoff returns, averaging 20.5 yards on 11 returns. Running back Jesse Callier and safety Sean Parker also have seen time on the kickoff return unit.
Despite improved play from fallout of the Tyrone Willingham era and having "The Tim Tebow of the West" as anointed by East Coast media, Washington has had greater trouble against ASU over the past decade than any other Pac-10 program.
All things considered, the Huskies haven't beaten the Sun Devils since 2001 – the longest losing streak UW has against any league foe.
However, current momentum clearly favors the home team after an invigorating win over the Trojans last week, while ASU, amid a month-long trip away from Tempe, is still reeling from a string of three winnable games that ended up as losses.
Quarterback play undoubtedly will dictate the outcome of this game; if the Sun Devils can pressure Locker and facilitate Husky mistakes and if Threet can regain the composure he showed in the first three games of the season, ASU can gain a marked advantage.
Conversely, if ASU allows Jake Locker time to pick his spots, the Sun Devil defense will be on its heels and if Steven Threet continues his inaccuracy, the Maroon and Gold will have a list of challenges emerging victorious in Seattle.
Roster News and Injury Notes
• Junior Onyeali is expected to start at weak side defensive end.
• Running back Deantre Lewis will play despite being considered questionable earlier in the week.
Five Questions: ASU at Washington
• Can ASU bounce back from three straight frustrating losses?
• How will the circumstances with Vontaze Burfict impact ASU's defense?
• Will Steven Threet be able to regain consistency?
• Can ASU improve its red zone offense?
• Will the Sun Devils be able to win the line of scrimmage battles on both sides?
• Washington assistant coach Dan Cozzetto previously coached at ASU.
• Washington graduate assistant Brent Miller played tight end at ASU from 2004-07.
• Washington wide receiver Devin Aguilar attended Denver (Colo.) Mullen High School, the same as ASU's Junior Onyeali.
• Washington cornerback Anthony Broyles attended Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra High School, the same as ASU's Devan Spann.
• Washington offensive lineman Gregory Christine was a former high school teammate of ASU's Samson Szakacsy and the two form the music group "Bent Twig".
• Washington defensive end Talia Crichton attended Lakewood (Calif.) High School, the same as ASU's Kevin Anderson and current Sun Devil verbal commit Rashaad Wadood.
• Washington kicker Erik Folk attended Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame High School, the same as ASU's Tyler Sulka.