Know Your Foe: Arizona State

Cal Sports Digest caught up with Devils Digest publisher Hod Rabino to get his thoughts on Arizona State's November swoon, the fate of coach Dennis Erickson and Friday's game against the Golden Bears.

-Arizona State looked to be on pace for a 10-win season not too long ago, but have lost three straight to UCLA, Washington State and Arizona with a combined record of 13-20. What is the main cause for this November meltdown?

Hod Rabino, publisher of DevilsDigest.com: It certainly hasn't been a November to remember in Tempe and everyone would indeed like to know why.

In my opinion, this three-game losing streak speaks to the mental psyche of this team. At 6-2, their swagger turned to cockiness in a New York minute, and they don't have enough talent to just show up, even against inferior teams like they had the last three weeks, and come away with a win. When they came to play UCLA (again sporting a 6-2 mark), they forgot that they needed to actually win the game to secure the Pac-12 South lead and just listened to all the pundits that were predicting an easy victory and smooth path to the conference championship game. They lost their focus, they lost their hunger and the rest as they say is history.

-Dennis Erickson looked to be beyond secure after knocking off USC and climbing into the top 20. Now the rumor mill has Erickson out the door already. Can he save his job? If not, who might be on the short list for a potential replacement?

This may not be breaking news, but the Erickson era in Tempe will come to an end this season, it's just a matter of when the official word will be given. Some think that win or lose against Cal that the decision will come 24-48 hours after the conclusion of the contest and some think that if the Sun Devils can qualify for the Pac-12 championship that the decision could be delayed.

There have been a couple of feelers sent out to some candidates, but I wouldn't say there is a short list by any means.

-How has quarterback Brock Osweiler fared in his first season as the full-time starter?

The numbers are more than respectable, 3,377 yards, 21 TD's and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for three TD's. Obviously through this three-game losing streak Osweiler has struggled along with his teammates and with all these defeats being close in nature he hasn't been able to mount any 4th quarter comebacks. I'm still seeing issues with him going through his progressions sometimes missing easy touchdown passes. In his defense, the run support hasn't always been there (in large part due to injuries and lack of depth) and I don't know if you could always call him pass protection adequate.

I don't think that Osweiler is a significant part of ASU's current problems but obviously he shoulders some of the blame.

-The Sun Devils defense has been ravaged by injuries. Is that the main reason for the dramatic decline in play as the season has gone on? Do they have the personnel in the secondary to handle the duo of Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones?

The funny thing about ASU's injuries is that no one was talking about it much through the first eight games where they were forcing a plethora of three and outs and also had the Sun Devils leading the conference by a country mile in the turnover margin category.

To me the injuries, especially to players such as Omar Bolden and Brandon Magee, are more about depriving the defense from much needed leadership rather than sheer talent. I talked about the overconfidence and lack of focus and I'd like to think that if this tandem was on the field the results would be a whole lot better than they are now. They are there every practice and every game, but there is so much you can do from the sidelines.

There is no doubt that the secondary is playing poorly now but in fairness they have slim to none pass rush up front to disrupt opposing signal callers. If there was a 180 degree turn on Friday in that aspect, then I think it will trickle down to the secondary as well.

-What does Arizona State have to do to come away with the win and a chance to play in the Pac-12 championship game?

Not to sound like a broken record but mentally they have to be in the right place. Aside from a possible Pac-12 South championship they will be playing for their 24 seniors and their head coach who is on his way out. I would hope that all this is enough motivation for them to play one of the better games of the year, but after what I saw the last three weeks I don't know what to expect anymore.

Against a defense like Cal's it's important to try and wear them down early and often and jump to a big lead and put doubts in their minds that they can win this game. As mentioned earlier, ASU's pass rush has to show up and stop what is a very underrated Bears' passing game.


BearTerritory.net Top Stories