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Washington State vs. Arizona State Football Prediction and Preview

Jayden Daniels, Arizona State Sun Devils Football

Jayden Daniels and the Sun Devils look to stay at the front of the Pac-12 South race when they host the Cougars

Homecoming and Halloween overlap at Arizona State, and the Sun Devils commemorate the occasions with an afternoon encounter against Washington State.

The Cougars (4-4, 3-2 Pac-12) visit Tempe in their second week under Jake Dickert, the interim coach replacing Nick Rolovich. Washington State gave BYU all it could handle in Dickert's first game last week before ultimately falling 21-19.

While Washington State comes into Sun Devil Stadium looking to keep its bowl aspirations alive amid a tumultuous season, Arizona State (5-2, 3-1) aims to maintain pace in the Pac-12 South divisional chase.

The Sun Devils' loss at Utah their last time out complicated their path to Las Vegas and the Pac-12 Championship Game, but the Utes dropping a decision last week at Oregon State helps. If Arizona State can win out, and Utah drops another game, ASU will land in the conference title game for the first time in eight years.

Washington State at Arizona State

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 30 at 3 p.m. ET
TV: FS1
Spread: Arizona State -15.5

When Washington State Has the Ball

The Mike Leach era made Washington State synonymous with eye-popping passing numbers and, typically, the worst rushing outputs in college football. Rolovich brought the Run-and-Shoot to the Palouse, integrating much more of a ground attack despite maintaining a pass-heavy philosophy.

The shift in philosophies continuing under Dickert is evident in running back Max Borghi's last two games. Borghi rushed for 89 yards in a come-from-behind win on Oct. 16 over Stanford, then carried for all three of the Cougars' scores against BYU.

If Deon McIntosh is available on Saturday, he gives Washington State a multifaceted rushing look. Make no mistake, though: This remains an offense most reliant on the pass.

Travell Harris and Calvin Jackson Jr. have both more than 500 receiving yards on the season and a combined nine touchdown catches. Throwing on Arizona State is risky; the Sun Devils have come up with more interceptions (five) than touchdown passes allowed (four) in the last three games.

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Linebacker Darien Butler's ability to drop back and defend the pass as effectively as he contains the run gives the Sun Devils versatility that can be difficult to counter. Butler leads ASU with three picks.

When Arizona State Has the Ball

Quarterback Jayden Daniels garnered some modest Heisman Trophy buzz heading into the 2021 season. He has been nowhere near that level, particularly in the passing game with six touchdowns against three interceptions and a little more than 215 yards per game. But his mobility has been vital to the dangerous, multi-dimensional look the Sun Devils have ridden to the nation's No. 30 rushing production.

Daniels complements Rachaad White, Daniyel Ngata, and the recently returned from injury Chip Trayanum. The diversity of Arizona State's run game figures to present problems for a Washington State defense allowing 4.5 yards per carry and 166.4 yards per game.

The Cougars have been much better defending the pass with almost as many picks (seven) as touchdowns allowed (nine) and a 59.8 percent opponents' completion rate. Washington State could load the box to test Daniels' arm, but the difficulty in that is opening up the field to explosive plays.

Wide receiver Ricky Pearsall scorched UCLA on Oct. 2, which loaded up against the run and played soft on the receivers, with 132 yards on four receptions and two touchdowns. And Washington State, despite its overall solid numbers, has allowed the most 30-plus-yard passing plays of any team in the Pac-12 with 13.

Final Analysis

Arizona State looked ready to cruise to a Pac-12 South title after rolling over UCLA, but the loss at Utah exposed the Sun Devils' most glaring issue: consistency.

Arizona State has one of the most talented rosters in the Pac-12 but can sputter through mental errors and penalties. Should the Sun Devils avoid those issues against Washington State, they should become bowl eligible and maintain their presence atop the division standings.

Prediction: Arizona State 34, Washington State 21

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— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45 and subscribe to his newsletter, The Press Break.