This week’s opponent breakdown features the Sun Devils homecoming conference opponent; the Washington Huskies. The format is the same as the last two weeks in that there are many offensive and defensive statistics comparing the Devils and the Huskies in a side-by-side comparison. There is also a section on some statistical trends on the 2015 ASU football team. Another feature is a comparison of the two teams by their running and passing plays-by-down, by half and within the red zone. The comparisons are from both an offensive and a defensive standpoint. As always, we want to thank cfbstats.com for their excellent compilation of statistics, along with the great stats provided by the Pac-12 Conference
In the side-by-side comparison, neither offense this week is lighting up the scoreboard compared to the other conference teams, as ASU is ninth in the conference, while Washington is eleventh in the average score per game. Roughly, one out of every three drives for the Devils sees them get into their opponents’ red zones, unfortunately, once there, the Devils are tenth in the conference in the frequency of scoring touchdowns. The Huskies are statically doing better in the red zone than the Devils in both the percentage of times they score points and the percentage of times they score touchdowns in the red zone. Washington is seventh in the conference in the percentage of times the offense scores a touchdown in the red zone. It’s telling for the Devils that they are tied for fourth in the conference in the number of times the offense enters their opponents’ red zones, yet they are eighth in the number of red zone touchdowns they’ve scored. The red zone is where critical plays need to be made.
It’s not a surprise that the Washington defense statically appears to be better than ASU in just about every defensive side-by-side category listed above. In one of the most important defensive categories; scoring defense, the Huskies are first in the conference, while ASU is tenth ahead of only Arizona and Oregon. The Huskies are the only conference team holding opponents under 20 points per game this season.
Another important defensive quality for the Huskies is that about 60-percent of the time opponents enters their red zone, they are turned away without a touchdown. Also, on average, opponents have to throw three time more passes to get a touchdown against the Washington defense as compared to the Devils’ defense. One last defensive characteristic for the Huskies this year is that they are tied for third in the conference in the number of takeaways. ASU is ninth in the conference.
The first three years of the Todd Graham era there were only two times where the Devils were in the bottom third of the conference in either an offensive or a defensive category listed above, whereas this year, the teams is in the bottom third in five categories.
The rushing defense and the passing defense have reversed positions in conference rankings from the first season of a Todd Graham coached team to the 2105 team. This year it seems that one of the biggest disconnects between what Coach Graham preaches and the actual execution has been protecting the ball on offense and getting takeaways on defense. This year, the Devils rank in the bottom third in both categories; ranking eleventh and ninth in the conference respectfully. These two outcomes just can’t be downplayed in the impact they have had on the success of the team this year. It’s the hallmark of a Todd Graham coached team, and it’s missing this year.
The graph below illustrates how unusual the lack of defensive takeaways have been for a Graham coached defense. Even though the 2105 team has only played nine games, the trend is clear.
ASU Giving Up the Big Play
ASU has given up some big plays so far this season. The table above details the number of big plays each conference team has surrendered during the current season. Notice that ASU is in the middle of the conference in giving up plays covering more than ten yards. However, in comparing the ASU defense to the other conference defenses in giving up plays of 50 yards or more, the Devils surrender more of these longer plays than any other conference team by far.
The Run Game
Although the table above doesn’t show it, the Huskies average 5.55 yards per carry at home and only 3.19 on the road. It’s also interesting that Washington averages over six yards per carry in the third quarter of its games and only about three yards per carry in the fourth quarter. It’s also interesting that the Huskies have 13 rushing touchdowns in six home games and only three touchdowns in three road contests.
ASU has run the ball 50 times on third down and gotten 25 first downs on those runs, for a 50-percent average conversion rate. The Huskies have 37 third down rushing carries and have converted ten for a first down for only a 27-percent conversion rate. On third and three yards or less, ASU averages 4.88 yards per carry, while under the same situation; the Huskies average only 0.63 yards per carry. However, in the tight quarters of the red zone, the Huskies have scored on 24.5-percent of their rushing attempts, while ASU scores a red zone touchdown only 15.6-percent of their rushing attempts.
The Passing Game
It’s interesting that at this point in the season, the Huskies are statistically doing a better job through the air in many different categories than ASU. One area that has been a hiccup for the Huskies has been the beginning and ending quarters. In those quarters, the Huskies have only thrown one touchdown pass in each quarter throwing roughly 120 passes in those two quarters. The Huskies passing attacking isn’t that impressive so far in the three road games they have played, where the Huskies have only one passing touchdown in 89 pass attempts. The completion percentage goes from 64.4-percent at home to 51.7-percent on the road.
The passing game for ASU has not been overly productive when the Devils are behind in theirs games as when they are ahead. When ahead, the Devils have thrown twelve touchdown passes in 136 pass attempts, whereas when the Devils are behind, they have thrown only four touchdown passes in 172 pass attempts. Another statistic that point to a lack of effective passing in critical situations is the fact that five of the eight interceptions thrown by ASU has come in either the fourth quarter or in overtime.
In the first half of their games, the ASU defense holds opponents to just 2.93 yards per carry, while surrendering almost a full yard more per carry in the second half at 3.84. The Huskies are just the opposite in allowing 3.44 yards per carry in the first half and a little tougher 3.19 in the second half. Actually, ASU is first in the conference in limiting yards per carry in the first half of games. The Devils fall to fifth in limiting yards per carry in the second half. The Devils are doing well within the conference, as they are averaging giving up only 2.80 yards per carry in conference play.
Being on the road doesn’t help the Huskies defense either, as they allow an average of only 2.92 yards per carry at home, but then give up an average of 4.02 on the road. Additionally, the second quarter is the one where the Washington run defense surrenders the most, as the yards per carry, the highest number of rushing touchdowns and the most running first downs happen in the second quarter of their games.
Where ASU had trouble scoring passing touchdowns when they were behind in games, the Huskies get downright stingy in their pass defense when they get ahead in a game. The Huskies have faced 113 passes when they are ahead and have not surrendered one passing touchdown yet. The Huskies also get tough to pass on within their own red zone in allowing only 41.7-percent of opponent passes to be completed there. This is also bad news for the Devils in that their completion percentage drops roughly ten percent when they enter their opponents’ red zones.
What the Numbers Mean
Currently not much about either the offensive or defensive numbers for the Devils is exciting. Their run defense starts out relative strong, but seems to fade as the game progresses. The ASU rushing game is somewhat the same in that it seems decent generally, but also seems to fade in critical third downs or in the very critical red zone.
The ASU passing offense and the passing defense appear to be the areas where the Devils struggle the most. In the passing game, the Devils put up decent numbers, but very much underperform in critical passing situations. The pass defense just gives up too many yards and too many touchdowns, and surprisingly doesn’t get many takeaways.
Washington’s offense doesn’t seem to be one that would keep defensive coordinators up at night, but their defense again this year is stellar. The Huskies lead the conference in allowing the fewest average points per game. Their pass defense is the strongest part of the defense in allowing, by far, the fewest passing touchdowns in the conference with only six. That’s nearly half of what the next closest team has allowed.
It appears that ASU will need to start making some critical plays in critical situations, and not giving up the big pass plays on defense to win this game, even if it is at Sun Devil Stadium where the Devils have done well under head coach Todd Graham, while the Huskies haven’t done that great on the road so far this year.