Sept. 8 – 7:30 p.m. (9:30 CST) – ESPN – Tempe, Ariz.
Conference: PAC-12 (South Division)
Head Coach: Todd Graham (First Season) – 49-26 career record
2011 Record: 6-7
Series: ASU leads 2-1
The last time: Illinois upset ASU 17-14 in 2011, marking the first time the Illini defeated a ranked opponent since 2007. Receiver A.J. Jenkins caught six passes for 103 yards and a touchdown and linebacker Jonathan Brown recorded seven tackles (3.5 for loss).
Of note: Arizona State defeated Northern Arizona 63-6 in Week One. The blowout performance may have been against an inferior opponent, but it's worth noting that the 63 points were more than the Sun Devils scored in a single game since Sept. 1 2005 (63-0 win versus Temple). The six points were the fewest given up since Oct. 30 2010 (42-0 win versus Washington State).
The Sun Devils were a pass-happy offense in the half-decade that Dennis Erickson was at the helm. With Erickson gone, so too has the lack of commitment to the run. Coach Todd Graham prefers a balanced attack, aided by a deep pool of running backs and a mobile quarterback.
The Sun Devils leading rusher in the season-opener, Marion Grice, is actually listed as the third string tailback. Cameron Marshall and James Morrison are two senior running backs that should split time as the starter this season. Freshman DJ Foster will also get carries.
Seven different players ran the ball last week, including quarterback Taylor Kelly, who finished with 43 yards on six carries.
Key losses: Quarterback Brock Osweiler left for the NFL after throwing for 4,036 yards and 26 touchdowns in his junior season. He is now with the Denver Broncos. Wide receiver Gerell Robinson exhausted his eligibility after catching 77 passes for 1,397 and seven touchdowns in 2011.
This season, the Sun Devils offense features only five seniors in the starting 11, including…
Player to watch: Tailback Cameron Marshall - Senior – 5-11, 215
Marshall led the team with 1,050 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2011. The San Jose, Calif. native is also a threat to catch the ball, having compiled 53 career catches. He should be well rested after rushing only nine times last week.
Player to watch: Quarterback Taylor Kelly – RS- Soph. – 6-2, 202
Kelly brings the added element of rushing to the quarterback position in Tempe. In his first career start, he accounted for 290 yards of total offense and one score.
What they said...
Illinois defensive coordinator Tim Banks on the ASU offense...
"I think it will still be the same, go fast, fast, fast, fast, but I think there will be maybe a little bit more emphasis on running the ball more, play-action and taking a shot downfield and those types of things."
Banks on ASU scoring 63 points last week...
"Yeah it gets your attention right away. We don't care who they're playing, at the end of the day they scored a ton of points, had a ton of offense. We understand it's going to be a challenge to have to go down to their place and have to play in front of their crowd, but at the end of the day I think our guys are excited about the challenge."
Defensive tackle Akeem Spence on ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly...
"He'll run the ball a lot more. He looks to run. If his first read is not there he'll pull it and tuck it and take off and run."
The Sun Devils employ a brand of 3-4 defense with a feature Illinois fans should be familiar with. Former Illini linebackers coach Ron West is now on the ASU staff. He brought with him the "Bandit" linebacker position, which is labeled as "Devil" on the ASU depth chart. The hybrid position is a cross between a safety and linebacker -- think a mix of physicality and speed.
The Sun Devils feature only three senior starters on defense, including…
Player to watch: Linebacker Brandon MaGee - Senior - 6-0, 228 pounds
MaGee started his final season in Tempe on a good note, intercepting a pass and recording 1.5 tackles for loss.
The game was MaGee's first action since 2010 due to a torn Achilles in preseason camp a year ago.
Player to watch: Linebacker Chris Young – Junior – 6-0, 232
Young led the team with 6.5 total tackles (2.5 for loss) last week against Northern Arizona. He was also active in coverage, breaking up two passes. Young is shorter than most linebackers, but has a strong frame and possesses good speed.
What they said…
Co-offensive coordinator Bill Gonzales on improvements the Illini offense must make...
"Overall we've just got to be a little bit more consistent. We've got to eliminate the errors. We put ourselves in some bad situations in third and long (against Western Michigan). We want to try to eliminate that. If we can keep it where it's third and short, we feel pretty good.
Co-offensive coordinator Chris Beatty on what ASU does well defensively...
"They run really well. They do a lot of things really well out of their base. They do a great job of running to the ball. You know, they're very athletic."
OL coach Luke Butkus on improving the rushing effort...
"We need to get better. We need to run off the ball. We need to move people off the line of scrimmage. That's what we came here to do. We came here to create movement in the run game and get people going. Create seams for our runners so they can make plays. We've got some pretty good running backs here, we've got to make seams and give room for those guys."
Senior punter Josh Hubner is not your ordinary specialist. An exceptional athlete, Hubner played quarterback, wide receiver, tight end and on defense in high school. Standing 6-4, 238 pounds, he's been clocked at 4.65 in the 40-yard dash.
He averaged 41.3 yards per punt in 2011 and is one of the more experienced players on the ASU roster.
Last week, Hubner punted three times, averaging 45.3 per with two downed inside the 20-yard line.
The situation at field goal kicker is less stable. Redshirt sophomores Alex Garoutte and Jon Mora are listed as co-starters. Garoutte handled the duties last season, finishing 15-for-22 on kicks with a long of 49.
Mora began his career as a walk-on at Arizona. He did a stint at Pima CC and is now in the mix to kick field goals at ASU.
The team did not attempt a field goal in Week One, and Garoutte handled all nine kickoffs.
Jamal Miles is listed as both the kick and punt returner, but he did not get an opportunity to showcase his skills last week. The senior wide receiver has returned three kicks and one punt for touchdowns in his career. The results speak to the importance of kicking away from Miles.
|Aug. 30||Northern Arizona (W, 63-0)|
|Sept. 15||@ MIssouri|
|Sept. 29||@ Claifornia|
|Oct. 11||@ Colorado|
|Nov. 3||@ Oregon State|
|Nov. 10||@ Southern Cal|
|Nov. 17||@Washington State|