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Arizona State: Three X-Factors vs. Washington State

These three players will need to play their best when the Sun Devils take the field Saturday.

The season isn't over just yet.

The Arizona State Sun Devils already have two losses, but with five games remaining on their schedule, they're still very much in the race to achieve the goal set at the beginning of the year: Reach the Pac-12 championship game.

However, Arizona State can't be caught looking past the upcoming opponent, the Washington State Cougars. Despite losing head coach Nick Rolovich and four assistants last week, the team narrowly lost to BYU 21-19 after winning three straight games.

Simply put, Washington State isn't a team to overlook.

"We play a good Washington State football team," Sun Devils head coach Herm Edwards said earlier this week. "They went through a little bit of a situation last week with their coach, the staff that was a part of that staff had been let go, the assistant coaches that were on that staff took over and did a fabulous job along with the players.

"(They're) really playing good football and they’re a 4-4 football team and have a lot of experience on both sides of the ball."

Arizona State will need to rely on certain players (x-factors) to do their jobs at a high level to help keep Washington State in check. These aren't necessarily proclaiming the top or most important players on the field, but more-so players with vital matchups and responsibilities against Washington State. 

Three X-Factors vs. Washington State

Merlin Robertson: There's no sugarcoating it: Robertson hasn't had the 2021 campaign most expected of him. That's not to critique his play or suggest he's played poorly, yet his potential hasn't flashed on a game-to-game basis. 

After a bye week, Robertson will find himself facing a pass-happy Cougars team that will look to either take advantage of his pass-coverage abilities or force Robertson to make one-on-one tackles on running back Max Borghi in the open field. 

Robertson has an opportunity to bounce back nicely, but his entire skillset will be tested when Washington State's offense is on the field. Robertson is talented, and it's time for that talent to show up in a big way.

Chase Lucas: Arizona State's secondary was in obvious need of Lucas in the loss to Utah, as Utes quarterback Cam Rising found success through the air against a depleted Sun Devils defensive backfield. 

With Lucas (and safety Evan Fields) projected to be back this week, the side opposite cornerback Jack Jones will return to normal against an offense that throws the ball better than nearly everybody in the Pac-12, as the Cougars average 265.2 yards per game through the air. 

Arizona State is sure to see a ton of passing action on defense (WSU is tied for first in the Pac-12 in passing attempts), as the Sun Devils' secondary will likely be tested more than any other week. Lucas will play a big role in keeping quarterback Jayden de Laura in check through four quarters.

Ricky Pearsall: Everybody is well aware Arizona State can run the ball until it's out of fashion, no matter the situation. However, the Sun Devils have struggled to establish their prominence throwing the ball throughout the season.

Pearsall is the best elixir in Tempe, and quite frankly needs to be more heavily involved moving forward. 

Pearsall's versatility before, during and after the catch pushes him to the top of Arizona State's receiving corps in terms of talent and productivity no matter the down and distance. 

Should this game turn into a shootout that requires the Sun Devils to air it out, look for Pearsall to play a major role in restoring balance to an ASU offense that loves to run the football.