Know Your Foe: Arizona State

Arizona will face Arizona State on Saturday and there are plenty of questions surrounding the game. Read on as DevilsDigest.com publisher Hod Rabino answers readers' questions surrounding the Sun Devils.

1. How much does ASU's offense change if Grice is out?

Rabino: Scheme wise I don't see it changing. ASU's offense is very much predicated on establishing the run game early and often. It's the basis for everything that they do.

Additionally, it's already been proven this year that when quarterback Taylor Kelly attempts 45 or more passes that the offense isn't as effective.

In two of three such games ASU suffered its only two losses of the season and in the third one they barely squeezed out a win (Wisconsin), so I can't see the staff asking Kelly to shoulder more than a usual load.

At this point of the season and with so much riding on the line you have to stick with the system that has been successful and has brought you this far.

2. What priority does ASU give to the Territorial Cup rivalry, relative to the conference championship and post-season bowl quality?

Todd Graham has always said that the importance of winning the Territorial Cup has been crystal clear to him from day one. Ever since he arrived in Tempe it's been highlighted as the most important game.

In its weight room the team has a countdown clock dedicated to the Arizona game. Earlier this week, Graham said that rivalry games are the aspect he loves the most about college football. All in all, there is no doubt about the high priority that is already placed on this game.

Needless to say that ASU is aware of what a win means in terms of the conference championship game location and a possible Rose Bowl appearance, but I don't think it puts that above the simple goal they have every year regardless of the implications and that is to win the Territorial Cup.

3. Is the 3-3-5 defense a good match-up against the ASU offense? Especially with Grice out.

I think a lot of it depends if ASU can keep its offense balanced, because when it does it is highly effective.

On that note, if the running attack is able to be a threat early in the game I can see Arizona bringing up more people to the box, which would loosen up the coverage in the secondary.

As I mentioned earlier, I don't see ASU trying to sling the ball around if Grice doesn't play, so having an extra defensive back opposing this offense shouldn't change much in ASU's approach.

4. Is Bradford having such a good year because the focus of opposing offensive lines is on Sutton?

I would say that is part of that, but you also have to give credit to his sheer pass rush ability.

He did start out slow (much like Sutton) against very physical offensive lines such as Wisconsin, Stanford and Notre Dame, but after that gauntlet of a schedule he is looking more and more like his 2012 form.

His numbers overall are still down from last year, but he has been a huge part of an ASU defense that is playing at a very high level during this six-game winning streak.

5. Has Sutton met expectations?

If you look at his numbers then the answer is no. As mention in the previous question, he has been the recipient of plenty double teams which naturally limited his productivity.

Now you can say that the fact that he is often occupying two blockers is carrying out a role that won't show up in stat sheets and not always jump at you when you are watching a game live.

Yet, the double teams he is getting have benefited the rest of the defensive line. All in all, Sutton has been making more modest and different in nature contributions, but is still a focal point of the defense.

6. Oregon's defensive line generally played a "read" technique and Arizona's offensive line was able to get very good push on them. UA has had difficulty with more aggressive, large defensive lines. Is ASU's line more of a "read" defense or "attack" defense?

I would say ASU's defensive line is somewhere in middle. Undoubtedly, they are very aggressive and not reactive, but at the same time not that physical, yet use their quickness to their advantage.

They have been playing very well as of late and if you honestly look at it I don't think the Arizona offensive line presents an overwhelming physical challenge that the ASU defensive line will have a hard time contending with.

It goes without saying that the defensive line will have to be gap sound and make sure the linebackers are free to make plays against a very good Wildcat running game. This week's game is probably won or lost on that aspect itself.

7. Wisconsin and Stanford gashed ASU. Are the rushing numbers overall misleading because ASU also did not play Oregon?

Following the aforementioned gauntlet of games, which included Wisconsin and Stanford, ASU has done very well against the run.

It held Washington's Bishop Sankey to 22 yards, and UCLA's Myles Jack was much less of a factor than anticipated last week, so the run defense has had mixed results against quality running backs.

You're not going to stop a great running back in Ka'Deem Carey, but I think this defense can do enough to make him less effective. I look to last year's game in Tucson and an ASU run defense which was quite worse than it is now was able to do a fairly good job against Carey, and I don't have a reason to believe the same cannot happen on Saturday.

ASU's offense usually starts very fast and if they can spot Arizona two touchdowns or more early in the game, that would be another way of neutralizing the running game.

8. How much has Jaelen Strong made Arizona State's offense successful?

Leaps and bounds. ASU still had a very potent offense last year, but that was achieved despite a below average wide receivers group and a passing game that leaned heavily on ASU's running backs and tight ends.

Strong's arrival has immediately elevated that group as being a physical, sure handed and deep threat target and one who has drawn a lot of pass interference calls.

His play obviously opens up things that much more for the ASU offense, allowing its play makers more space to operate in, as well as taking off pressure off of them.

It's one thing to have a plethora of accolades and expectations as a recruit, it's another to live up to them, and Jaelen Strong has fulfilled his promise.

9. If Grice is out, is Foster or Lewis more suited to get carries?

I would expect both to get a fairly equal dose and you will also see quarterback Taylor Kelly run the ball quite a bit, although it would be a surprise if we saw him do so 22 times like he did against UCLA last week.

Between the two running backs, I would say that Lewis is closer to Grice in his running style, so I would expect him to start.

He's an explosive runner who will need to correct the fumbling issues he has had this year. The majority of Foster's snaps have come at wide receiver and ironically the last couple of games he has been getting more carries, which could help if he will indeed see a heavier workload in the backfield.

While Foster never shies away from contact, he is less physical in his style, but both backs do operate very well in open space.

10. How are ASU's special teams?

It has been a season long issue to be quite frank, sans freshman field goal kicker Zane Gonzalez, who has made 15 attempts in a row and two of his

Punting and coverage teams have rotated back and forth as being the biggest deficiency on the entire team, and against UCLA both aspects were poor.

Thanks to ASU's solid defense, those issues didn't prevent a win, but if those issues persist it will eventually come with a price.


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