Know Your Enemy: Week 13
ASU Sun Devils
(Photo credits: Robert Kline, & Azcentral.com)
The Arizona State Sun Devils underwent a needed change in attitude, personnel, and coaching during the off-season. And although the teams record (6-5, 4-4) doesn’t reflect much, if any, change from the 2011 season under Dennis Erickson (6-7, with a loss in the Vegas Bowl), the 2012 squad is a far more disciplined and poised than they were just one year ago. New head coach Todd Graham was under fire, and a national laughing stock, from the day ASU hired him away from Pittsburgh, for abandoning the team he had taken over one season before, and for not practicing the same dedication to the program that he preached so often to his players at Pitt. But HC Graham seems to have weathered that national PR storm, and has the players, alumni, and fans all believing that he has the Sun Devils on the right track back to relevance in the Pac12. Go ahead and laugh at HC Graham’s “Brittany Spears headset” (seriously… go ahead), or criticize the ASU athletic department for embarrassing itself during their national coaching search, but HC Graham seems to be a perfect fit in Tempe. HC Graham has gotten former players back involved in the program, he has brought back some longtime traditions (Camp Tontazona), and he is now running a tight ship that has taken ASU from being one of the most penalized teams in the country, to one of the more disciplined. Fans of the Devils should enjoy the breath of fresh air that HC Graham is while they can, because I’m guessing that Brittany Spears headset fields calls from desperate AD’s eager to offer HC Graham his next “dream job” should he have any success coaching the Devils.
The ASU offense returned 4 starters to an offense that averaged 33.2 points and 446 yards per game in 2011. Thus far in 2012, the Devils offense is averaging 36.3 PPG overall, and 29 PPG in their five road games, which includes a 51 point outburst at Colorado. Take away the Colorado game, and ASU is only averaging 23.5 points on the road.
The ASU offense was expected to be led by senior RB Cameron Marshall, who rushed for over 1,000 yards and 18 TDs in 2011. This season has not been what RB Marshall or ASU fans expected. With former OC Noel Mazzone departing for UCLA, the new offense implemented by HC Graham has not given RB Marshall nearly as many opportunities to handle the football as he got in 2011 (230 carries in 2011 & 118 in 2012), and he has only rushed for 503 yards and 5 TDs on the season, with his longest run being only 21 yards. RB Marshall has split time with freshman RB DJ Foster, who has rushed for 443 yards and 2 TDs on the season.
Expect the Devils to air the ball out, with sophomore QB Taylor Kelly. In QB Kelly’s first season as the starter in Tempe, he has looked impressive, passing for 2,581 yards, 25 TDs, and only 9 INTs. QB Kelly has completed 66.9% of his passes and has managed the offense well, keeping mistakes to a minimum. QB Kelly looks to be the real deal, and should bring some stability to the QB position at ASU for the next couple seasons. QB Michael Eubank will see some time behind the center as well, but is typically used as a dual threat QB in short yardage situations and near the goal line. QB Eubank has thrown for 4 TDs this season, and has rushed for 3 TDs.
QB Kelly has done a good job of spreading the ball around this season, but his favorite targets are WR Marion Grice (38 receptions, 8 TDs) and TE Chris Coyle (51 REC, 5 TDs). Much like the RBs at Oregon, ASU RB DJ Foster is a receiving threat out of the backfield that has caught 34 passes and has 4 receiving TDs.
The Devils defense had 4 returning starters from their 2011 squad, and so far through 11 games in 2012, has given up 23 points per game. When playing away from Sun Devil Stadium, ASU is allowing 26.4 PPG. The ASU defense is leading the conference in sacks this season, with 48. The ASU front seven features the most aggressive group of blitzing LBs the UofA will have seen all season.
Defensive lineman Will Sutton is the leader on defense. DL Sutton has been a dominant force in the middle all year, but has struggled with injuries late in the season, causing him to miss all but one play vs Oregon, and the entire matchup vs UCLA. In spite of missing almost two full games this season, DL Sutton has recorded 10.5 sacks and 54 tackles on the season. Those numbers don’t tell the whole story though, DL Sutton has been in the backfield nearly every play and has been disruptive for his opponents in both the running and passing game.
- With some recent developments in regards to California’s “Measure B” Act (condom use required on all porn sets). ASU is poised to take advantage of the large number of film majors and cheerleaders on their Tempe campus, and seize control of the porn industry in the United States.
- For 3 seasons in a row, the visiting team has won the Territorial Cup on their rival’s home field. UofA has won 3 of the past 5 matchups overall.