On the surface, Arizona State seems to be the logical play as the Sun Devils have won and covered eight consecutive games in this series, winning by an average margin of sixteen points per game. However, the Sun Devils are coming off an extremely emotional double-revenge win over Stanford last week, and now have to travel to one of the most difficult venues in the Pac-12 Conference. The recently-expanded Husky Stadium provides Washington with a significant home field advantage, and I’ve been impressed with what new head coach Chris Petersen has accomplished despite the limited talent on the roster.
Astute sports bettors can smell a letdown from a mile away, and Arizona State head coach Todd Graham is basically setting the tables for just that after the Sun Devils dominated Stanford. “To turn the tables and beat a team like that and dominate them physically the way we did, because of the respect we have for their program, that one meant more to me personally than any win we have had,” Graham said. While Arizona State has spent the week patting itself on the shoulders, the Huskies are quietly sitting at 5-2 on the season and are looking for legitimate revenge after being humiliated in Tempe last year.
Washington’s strength is a very good defense that is allowing just 3.3 yards per rush play, 7.5 yards per pass play and 5.3 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 3.8 yards per rush attempt, 8.3 yards per pass attempt and 6.1 yards per play against a mediocre defensive squad. Overall, the Huskies are 0.5 yards per rush play, 0.8 yards per pass play and 0.8 yards per play better than average defensively, which is good enough to slow down a potent Arizona State attack that is 0.9 yards per play better than average (6.7 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 5.8 yards per play).
The issue facing Arizona State’s offense is the instability/uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position. Starting quarterback Taylor Kelly has been out with a foot injury since September 13, but coach Graham has indicated that the senior will be getting the start tonight. That news is not necessarily good for Arizona State fans as Kelly is averaging 9.2 yards per pass attempt this season, and the Sun Devils’ offense has been 1.4 yards per play better than average with Kelly behind center.
Meanwhile, backup quarterback Mike Bercovici has looked outstanding in the last three games wherein he has thrown for 1,322 yards at 8.1 yards per pass attempt against significantly better competition (Stanford, USC, UCLA).
Kelly’s numbers may look good on the surface, buy they came against Weber State, New Mexico and Colorado. To say the least, I’m not impressed. Arizona State’s offense is 1.4 yards per play better than average with Bercovici behind center, and I think coach Graham is making a mistake by going back to Kelly under the circumstances.
From a technical standpoint, Washington is 9-2-1 SU and 11-1 ATS as a conference home underdog of less than ten points, provided it has a winning record on the season. The Huskies are also 17-7 ATS at home, 12-5 ATS following a blowout loss of more than twenty points and 12-4-1 ATS after allowing more than 40 points in their previous game.
With Arizona State standing at a money-burning 15-33-3 ATS on the road versus teams with a winning record and 1-6-1 ATS in their last eight games on artificial turf, take the Huskies plus the points and invest with confidence.
Sports Betting Preview & Pick: Washington (+3.5) (-110)
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