What to expect?

<I>It's hard to know what to expect from this weekend's game in Berkeley. On one hand, the Devils are 6-1, ranked nationally, and feature one of the best QBs in the country. On the other hand, Cal has destroyed almost all of their opponents and had a chance to beat USC at the end of the game in LA. One thing is for sure – the Sun Devils will have to play a great game to have a chance to win.</I>

I am struggling with this weekend's game against California in Berkeley. I honestly have no idea what kind of game to expect. Will the Devils play a very good game and give the Bears all the can handle, or will the defense give up a bunch of points and let the game slip away early?

We've seen ASU play a great game in all phases against Iowa this year, so we know they are capable. The defense knows how to pressure QBs and getting big stops. The offense can hit on all cylinders, Andrew Walter can complete a high percentage of his passes, and the running game can do enough damage to demand the opponent's attention.

However, we've also seen the defense give up 87 points in the last two games – and Cal may have a better offense than either USC or UCLA. They will definitely bring a balanced attack, letting J.J. Arrington run or Aaron Rogers throw to counteract defenses' expectations. They've won every game by double digits.

ASU's offense has been explosive at times; including last weekend's game when they put 14 points on the board utilizing two drives that took only a combined 59 seconds. Walter throws a great long ball and the quick strike capability of the Sun Devils means they are in almost any game, even if they are down two touchdowns late in the game.

Conversely, most of the nation watched Rogers complete a record number of consecutive passes to Cal receivers against a stout Trojan defense. He was on fire, but not all that much more than normal considering his completion percentage for the year is an eye-popping 75 percent

The reality is that the Cal Golden Bears are a more complete team than ASU. Their offense is more balanced and their defense has not been giving up big numbers. There is a reason why they are a top ten team and why the Vegas odds makers have them as a two-touchdown favorite on Saturday. The Bears are also well coached and don't beat themselves.

In other words, the Devils' challenge this weekend will be every bit as tough as the challenge USC posed two weekends ago. Obviously, the game in LA didn't go too well for ASU, but it's hard to really extrapolate from that game because the Devils just didn't show up to play. If ASU had played well and been focused at all, some comparisons could be made. But the Dirk Koetter's squad came out flat, made mistakes early, and the game was over before the midway point of the first quarter.

So, while it is hard to predict what's going to happen this weekend, ASU fans can agree on one thing – coming out scared/unprepared/over-amped/lost/or whatever the case may be is unacceptable. Having experienced a similar stage a couple weeks ago, the Devils should run out of the tunnel with the right focus and mental approach.

If that happens, what will be the outcome of the game? That's the $64,000 question and one for which I really have no answer. The ASU fan in me wants to think that the team can pull it all together and squeak out a close one in the fourth quarter. The unemotional, logical side of me says that Cal's past performances show them to be at least ten points better than the Sun Devils.

Since I've gone out of my way to not make predictions this season, I won't start doing it now. I will say, however, that ASU must play close to the level they reached against Iowa if they want to be within striking distance at half. If they can do that and gain some confidence, anything can happen, especially when you've got Walter under center.

The USC game proved that the Devils weren't ready for the big stage yet. The UCLA game showed that they have some strong mental resolve and wouldn't let a blowout loss the week before send them into a tailspin. The game against Cal offers an opportunity to prove that they belong on the field with one of the nation's elite teams, are worthy of their national ranking, and have enough desire to go out and take a victory from a very good team on their home field.

The problem for Devil fans is knowing what to expect. My only expectations are that the Devils will play hard, won't beat themselves, and will compete throughout the game. If that occurs, everything else will work itself out.

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