The first of two Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) schools the Sun Devils will face to kickoff the 2010 season, the Vikings are winless in eight tries against Pac-10 teams and 2-25 lifetime versus Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) squads. Portland State's two wins came over Hawaii (2000) and New Mexico (2006)
In addition to its unique Pistol offensive formation, the Vikings play a 3-4 base defense after lining up in a 3-4 set last season.
Offensive Personnel Preview
Similar to the Sun Devils, the Vikings saw a group of quarterbacks compete to earn the starting nod this year.
The predicted starter is junior Connor Kavanaugh, while senior Drew Hubel is a very potent starter when healthy. Last year, Hubel started eight games but missed time due to injury and Kavanaugh filled in for the other three starts. Tygue Howland obtained a sixth year of eligibility for 2010 and has four career starts at quarterback.
Ultimately, Hubel totaled 1,976 passing yards and nine touchdowns with 12 interceptions while Kavanaugh threw for 444 yards with two scores and five picks. Kavanaugh adds an athletic presence in the running game as well, standing as Portland State's leading returning rusher after collecting 390 yards and three scores a year ago.
Portland State's skill positions took a significant hit due to graduation this past year, with only one non-quarterback having rushed more than one time last year and only one returning receiver with over six receptions.
Wide receiver Ray Fry, who initially signed and played for the University of Idaho under Dennis Erickson in 2006, is perhaps the team's most talented over all player and a legitimate honors candidate as he caught 67 passes for 904 yards and three touchdowns in 2009.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, behind Fry is a tremendous lack of achievement as Keitrell Anderson is the second-leading returning receiver with only six receptions for 101 yards and one touchdown, however Anderson is not projected to start against ASU as Nick Hutter, who caught five passes for 45 yards a year ago, and Justin Monahan, a sophomore that redshirted in 2009, are listed as the other two first-stringers in Portland State's expected three-receiver set.
At running back, Ben Bowen leads the way statistically having collected 275 yards on 64 carries with one score last year, but he is expected to serve as a backup to projected starter Cory McCaffrey, a converted wide receiver. Former Washington Husky Willie Griffin may be a factor as well at running back for the Vikings.
Rory Richards, a converted linebacker, is positioned to be the starting tight end.
The Viking offensive line features two returning starters in Dustin Waldron, who has started 13 straight games, and Kyle Ritt, who started 10 of 11 contests last year.
Adam Kleffner is expected to start at center after being a reserve the past two seasons, while redshirt freshman Alex Cosenza, a product of Chandler's Hamilton High School and the Arizona native on the roster, and junior college transfer Mike Corricott are expected to fill out the starting offensive line.
Though there is starting experience at quarterback, consistency and health are significant concerns. Aside from Ray Fry, there is absolutely no proven talent at any of the skill positions and there are three new starters along the offensive line.
Factor in the newness of a first-year head coach and a revamped FCS offense facing a top-10 caliber FBS defense and the recipe is in place for a very challenging opener for the Vikings.
If ASU performs with the expected chip on its shoulder, the Sun Devil defense should be able to dominate the Viking offense from an early point and require that Portland State forces plays and leaves itself liable to mistakes.
Defensive Personnel Preview
In total, the Vikings had one of the Big Sky's poorer defenses in 2009, allowing a total of 413.2 yards per game last year and lacked any sort of playmaking ability which allowed Portland State to be on the short end of a 2-to-1 turnover ratio for the year.
Linebacker Ryan Rau is the clear leader of the defense after posting 72 tackles, 10.0 tackles-for-loss and 4.0 sacks in 2009. Joel Sisler and DJ Macarthy combined for 43 tackles last year and figure to join Rau as starting linebackers.
Up front, Travis Beckley is the most experienced player on the team with 22 straight starts and 33 career games played, and collected 29 tackles and 3.0 sacks from his defensive tackle spot in 2009. He'll be joined by junior college transfer Alika Vaiese in the starting lineup at tackle. Dereck Jester appeared in 11 games as a freshman reserve defensive end a year ago with 13 tackles and 2.0 sacks, while former Oregon State Beaver Carl Sommer appeared in eight games in 2009 and is likely to start opposite Jester.
In addition to a capable group of linebackers, the cornerback position figures to be a strength of the Viking defense as Deshawn Shead, the owner of nine interceptions and 14 pass breakups over two seasons and David Ross, a recent transfer from Oregon State, figure to be the starters. Sophomore Michael Williams started nine games a year ago and will fill in as the top reserve at cornerback.
Junior college transfer Manoa Latu is poised to start at strong safety with Nathan Snow, who started a pair of games last year and collected 23 tackles, in place to start at free safety.
Portland State's defense is far from overwhelming, but it could be advantageous and timely in its playmaking if ASU's offense sputters.
With a steady concern remaining focused on ASU's offensive line, it may help the Sun Devils' consistency in that area to know that half of the Vikings' sacks production from 2009 graduated after last season, creating a general unknown in terms of quarterback pressure.
ASU should be able to assert itself in the trenches with relative ease, as the projected starting defensive line for the Vikings averages only 262 pounds, while the publicized Sun Devil first-string offensive line averages over 301 pounds per player. This advantage should help the transition for former tight end Dan Knapp, the probable starter at left tackle, who will outweigh his likely counterpart in the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Jester, by 35 pounds.
When facing an FCS program, though the underdogs are typically geeked up to pull of the upset, the depth and talent discrepancies typically show and if ASU is able to efficiently activate its no-huddle attack, Portland State should be kept on its heels defensively.
Special Teams Preview
Kicker Zach Brown set a school record with 18 field goals last season, connecting on 72-percent of his tries, while Australian Thomas Dunydam handles the punting duties.
Junior Braedyn Eagle is Portland State's second-year long snapper, but punt and kick returns likely will be addressed by new athletes as last year's primary specialists graduated.
Overall Expectations Though there is always a need to avoid sluggish play and shocking upsets, the honest truth is that ASU has a pair of warm-up games before heading to Wisconsin in two weeks.
With that being the case, it is uncertain if the Sun Devils will take a developmental approach to this game or come out in seek-and-destroy mode to begin to atone for two straight losing seasons.
In all, ASU should be able to distance itself at a very early point and create a sizeable margin of victory. The matchup of ASU's vaunted defense against a reformed and inexperienced offense should prove tremendously disadvantageous for the visitors.
In games such as these, though the final score is important perhaps more critical factors of evaluation are individual and unit performances, so the efficiency of ASU's quarterbacks, offensive line and receivers likely will be closely analyzed regardless the final tally.
Five Questions: ASU vs. Portland State
• Will ASU begin as the aggressors on offense or gradually work itself into the game?
• Will starting quarterback Steven Threet ease his way into live duty or be given freedom in the passing game from an early point?
• How will ASU's offensive line perform after showing a variety of alignments in practice?
• How will the depth at wide receiver collectively perform?
• Has the defense really made strides to improve on its conference-leading standing from a year ago?
Injury Update and Lineup Notes
• Offensive lineman Evan Finkenberg will serve a first-half suspension for an offseason incident.
• ASU's wide receivers coach Steve Broussard was an assistant coach at Portland State from 2004-06.
• Running back Willie Griffin (Washington), cornerback David Ross (Oregon State), offensive lineman Scott Shugert (Washington) and defensive end Carl Sommer (Oregon State) all have prior experience at Pac-10 schools, while wide receiver Martin Bayless (Northwestern) also began his career at the FBS level.
• Defensive lineman Jack Forbes played at the College of San Mateo (Calif.) with ASU's Eddie Elder.
• Offensive lineman Dalton Jasso attended Lakewood (Calif.) High School, as did ASU's Kevin Anderson and as does current Sun Devil verbal commit Rashad Wadood.