Before the season started I saw at least a few opportunities for sweet, sweet victory in November, but now I'm not so sure. At least there's fewer opportunities for a 40 point blowout.
The Sun Devil is an acceptably unique mascot; certainly better than their Territorial Cup rival Arizona Wildcats. To take advantage of the unique aspects of having a Devil for a mascot, I unapologetically present this clip of the Robot Devil from Futurama.
(I got a hundred bucks on rectal exam bot!)
The Buffs are off to warmer climates, poised to hit the Valley of the Sun for the first time since 2007. Kickoff is set for 4:30, but there's no TV coverage to avoid looking at this weekend. If you really want to, you can join Mark Johnson on 850 KOA to agonize over the play-by-play.
Click below for my preview...
Last week in this space I jinxed the shit out of Tyler Hansen. I praised his ability to stay healthy while his teammates were dropping like flies. Of course, come Saturday, he would suffer a concussion before halftime and not return. At this point, the coaching staff is the only part of the program not affected by the injury bug.
The result is that redshirt freshman Nick Hirshman will probably get a jump start on the 2012 quarterback competition by taking the reins against ASU. Sure, why not.
As far as I can tell, the fates have now exhausted their ability to afflict this program. Dipping deep into my bag of hubris, I therefore defy fate and the football gods to come up with further ways to punish this program. I DEFY YOU! *shakes fist*
Opponents season so far - The Sun Devils were handed a gift this season. With the USC Trojans left ineligible for Pac-12 Championship play, all ASU has to do is squeak past a pack of also-ran teams to win the right to play for a BCS berth. UCLA: directionless. Arizona: so sad they axed their coach after failing to beat a FBS opponent in 10 tries. Utah: flummoxed by BCS caliber play, they've still yet to win a Pac-12 game. CU: well, we all know the problems with CU.
The point is, not since the Buffs at the end of the Gary Barnett era has a team had such an easy path to a divisional title. If they fuck this up, the program will need to seriously re-evaluate where it's headed.
So far, they've handled service on schedule. After a 2-1 start in non-conference play (including a loss to MY ILLINI), they've taken care of business in Pac-12 play. Three straight wins to open their conference slate has them right where they should be headed into November. While they haven't sowed up the South Division yet, the remaining five conference tilts on their schedule are all winnable, and I wouldn't bet against them sweeping the set.
|MY ILLINI did a pretty good job of tripping up ASU a few weeks back.|
|It was the perfect set-up - what happened, ASU?|
Offense & Defense -
Offensively, the Sun Devils are a pass happy bunch, relying mostly on the arm of Brock Osweiler. Near 300 of their 427 yards per game come through the air. Most importantly, well over half of their accumulated first downs have come from pass plays. When the chips are down, this bunch throws the ball, and they have a sizable total of 16 total scores through the air. They can run the ball, but they're simply average on the ground, grabbing only 3.8 yards per rush.
|At the end of the day, ASU will look to move the ball through the air.|
Defensively, they do a great job of focusing on make-or-break situations. All told, they hold opponents to a paltry 25% conversion rate on 3rd down, and a sub-50% red zone TD rate. There are some yards to be gained on the ground, as they allow 4.5 yards per carry, but overall this unit is solid.
When you look at the whole picture, ASU is far from elite, possessing just enough talent to be labeled 'good,' but no where near the quality of the upper echelon of the conference. They're still good enough to take the Pac-12 South in a year with USC sitting on the post-season sidelines, but, if placed in the North, I think they'd have a hard time finishing higher than 4th.
Star Players -
Gargantuan 6-8 QB Osweiler leads the Sun Devil offense. Taking the 'tall QB' thing to an extreme, the overly-tall junior has but up some good, not great numbers this season. Just shy of 2,000 yards on 66% passing is good enough for most conferences, but, in the Pac-12, it's only good enough to place you in the middle of the QB pack.
|He sure is tall.|
Junior Cameron Marshall handles running duties. He's not necessarily 'explosive,' but he's hit endzone pay-dirt 9 times, and he's pretty deadly in short yardage situations.
On defense, the story is all about guaranteed NFL prospect Vontaze Burfict. Known for being a nasty player, Burfict has put his passions to good use on the field, having been named a first-team All-American by the Sporting News in 2010. He's a devastating backer, capable of shredding any offense that dares get in his way. So far this season, he's grabbed 5.5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks; far more than anyone else on the team. It seems, however, that teams are starting to shy away from him a little bit, as Burfict has only 19 solo tackles this season, far less than the 54 he recorded last year. CU would be wise to follow suit and stay out of his way.
|Burfict is the undisputed leader of the Sun Devil defense.|
Dennis Erickson has a coaching resume that basketball lifer Larry Brown could get behind. The 64 year old has held nine different head coaching jobs over the past 30 years, rarely staying in one place for more than a few seasons. In fact, should Erickson stay in Tempe through next year, his six seasons at ASU would tie his time at Miami for his longest stint.
A lot of people poke fun at him for his nomadic ways, but it's been a successful and lucrative proposition for him. While he never found much success in the NFL, Erickson has been a consistent winner at the collegiate level, compiling an impressive 178-91-1 record over seven different stops, and earning two national titles while he was running the show in Miami.
|Erickson is about as experienced and successful a college coach as there is.|
Loss. If you honestly have hope of a CU victory to snap the interminably long road losing streak this weekend, then you need to pass the pipe, 'cause you're hogging the good stuff. While CU is starting to get a little healthier, with the return of Ray Polk and Travis Sandersfeld a very welcome sight in the constantly undermanned secondary, there's no reason CU should be able to hang in Tempe.
Might I suggest running some errands, or perhaps hitting the mountains this weekend, 'cause there won't be much good to listen to if you stay inside.
The only question left is, with a freshman QB leading a reeling team on the road, does CU have it within them to score. I'll say yes: two Will Oliver field goals
ASU 51 - CU 6
GO BUFFS, PROVE ME WRONG AND EXORCISE THE SUN DEVILS!