|No. 5 Washington faces ASU after dark|
TEMPE, Ariz. -- ESPN's snarky cupcake graphic mocking Washington's early schedule did not get in the way of the poll voters this week, when the No. 5 Huskies used another victory to take another step in their gradual ascent in the rankings.
All a team can do is beat the teams it plays, and Washington has done all it can toward securing its second straight appearance in the four-team College Football Playoff before the selection committee's initial poll -- the only one that really matters -- comes out on Halloween.
The Huskies (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12) will attempt to keep rolling in their third Pac-12 road game in four weeks against Arizona State (2-3, 1-1) at Sun Devil Stadium at 10:45 p.m. ET.
It will be Washington's second straight late start on an ESPN telecast -- and a fact that drew Washington coach Chris Petersen into a dispute with the network last week over late Pac-12 start times.
"I'm not really a political guy," Petersen said. "I just try to be honest. There are certain times you do stand up for certain things, and then you move on. What I need to do is move on and concentrate on Arizona State. That's the most important thing for us."
Washington is led by junior quarterback Jake Browning, junior running back Myles Gaskin and a defense that is ranked No. 2 nationally in yards allowed (228.8 yards per game). The Huskies are third in the country in rushing defense and have held each of their conference opponents to one touchdown apiece.
Browning, the 2016 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, has completed 122 of 173 passes for 1,466 yards with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions. Gaskin has rushed for 559 yards and eight touchdowns, and he set a career high with 202 yards rushing on 24 carries in a 37-10 victory at Colorado on Sept. 23.
Washington is averaging 43 points a game, tied with Alabama and Oregon for 10th in the FBS. The Huskies are averaging 432.2 yards of offense. Freshman tight end Hunter Bryant had a breakout game last week against Cal with nine receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown.
"You've got to stop the run," Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. "Gaskin is a really good back. (Lavon) Coleman is a really good back as well. They're going to run the ball. I think where they've really matured is on the offensive line. Their offensive line is very good, very physical."
On the other side of the ball, California's only touchdown in a 38-7 loss at Seattle last week was on a fumble recovery by the defense. Washington limited the Bears to nine first downs and 93 yards of offense. The Huskies have a plus-7 turnover margin, with 13 takeaways, and have scored two touchdowns on interception returns.
"Each week we've kind of grown in certain areas," Petersen said. "That's kind of what it's all about. There are certain things we come out of every game where we're like, 'That just didn't feel like or look right, and how we get better from that?' Each week I think the kids have really responded."
With junior quarterback Manny Wilkins leading the way, Arizona State can move the ball. The Sun Devils are averaging almost 427 yards a game. Wilkins has thrown for 1,452 yards -- just 14 fewer than Browning -- and has eight touchdowns and two interceptions.
At the same time, Arizona State has given up an average of 484.2 yards a game, ranked No. 118 among the 129 FBS teams.
The Sun Devils had a bye last week after a 34-24 loss at Stanford on Sept. 30 in which the Cardinal had 504 yards in total offense. Stanford halfback Bryce Love rushed for a school-record 301 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. Wilkins was sacked three times and threw his first two interceptions of the season.
Arizona State senior halfback Demario Richard rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns at Stanford, and the Sun Devils had a season-high 214 yards. Richard also had 57 receiving yards to reach 3,019 career all-purpose yards.
ASU can be dangerous at home. The Huskies' 44-10 victory in Seattle last November ended the Sun Devils' 10-game series winning streak, and Arizona State has won six straight in the series at Sun Devil Stadium, dating to 2001.
Arizona State beat then-No. 24 Oregon at home on Sept. 23, and it can gain motivation from the fact that the Pac-12 South is wide open. Each of the six teams has at least one loss.
"They are obviously the team to beat in our league," Graham said of Washington. "Very good personnel. Defense, seems like those guys have been playing together for three, four years. They are very, very good at what they do."