Washington is the fourth top-10 team to lose in the past couple of days. Here are three thoughts from the No. 5 Huskies’ 13–7 loss to Arizona State, as the Pac-12’s last undefeated team goes down in the desert.
1. Arizona State had come into Saturday night allowing at least 30 points in the past 11 games.
The Sun Devils gave up 484.2 yards per game—good for 119th in the country—and a putrid 6.92 yards per play. Yet despite facing a defensive sieve, No. 5 Washington could not get anything going on offense. Former first-team All-Pac-12 tailback Myles Gaskin mustered 67 yards on 14 carries. Jake Browning, one of the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks, threw for a measly 139 yards on 30 throws. While Browning missed a number of throws, there were other plays where Washington’s wideouts could not create any separation against Arizona State’s secondary. Yes, it was a tough blow to lose fantastic left tackle Trey Adams in the first half to an apparent knee injury. But one offensive lineman’s disappearance shouldn’t cause the total careening of an entire unit., especially against one of college football’s worst defenses. The Huskies desperately need another weapon in their aerial attack to emerge behind Dante Pettis, after John Ross left for the NFL and Chico McClatcher suffered a season-ending injury.
2. Washington’s special teams were a full-blown disaster in Tempe. Chris Petersen’s conservative decision-making didn’t help matters either.
Arizona State blocked a Joel Whitford punt in the first half, which led to a field goal. It was the Huskies’ placekicking woes, however, that really doomed the team. Freshman Van Soderberg missed field goals from 27 and 21 yards out in the second half—the latter of which Petersen opted for instead of going for it on fourth-and-two from the ASU four-yard line with 50 seconds left in the third and the scoreboard reading 13–0 Sun Devils. Washington has some tough competition left on its schedule, and a lack of faith in its kicking game could lead to some big problems down the stretch.
Fortune favored the bold later in this #Pac12AfterDark affair, as Todd Graham gambled on fourth-and-3 on Washington’s 37-yard line with 2:08 remaining, going for a first down to win the game instead of relying on his defense to keep the Huskies out of the end zone one final time. Manny Wilkins completed a throw that impossibly slipped by multiple players into the hands of Ceejhay French-Love for 30 yards and the upset.
3. The Huskies now don’t have any room for error if they want to make their second College Football Playoff appearance in a row.
Washington’s non-conference schedule won’t do it any favors with the playoff committee, facing the likes of Rutgers, Montana and Fresno State. As of now, the Huskies’ best win is a home affair against Cal. With a bad loss vs. an Arizona State team that will likely hover around the .500 mark this season, Washington’s chances to be ranked as a top-four team come the end of the regular season would be slim to none if it picks up a second loss. Four of the final five games for the Huskies are at home, but winning all four against UCLA, Oregon, Utah and Washington State isn’t an easy task. The Huskies also have to battle Bryce Love and Stanford in Palo Alto, and would be facing a must-win scenario in the Pac-12 Championship Game—should they reach it. This loss is bad news for the entire Pac-12 as well, as it now becomes the first Power 5 conference without an undefeated team. With few strong teams in the conference that would potentially boost a team like Washington, Washington State or USC's ranking dramatically, the Pac-12 sits as the conference most likely to be left out of the playoff picture altogether.