ASU-Iowa from DevilsDigest.com

<I>Time to make a statement. Put up or shut up. This is why you play college football.</I>…name the football cliché and there's more than a good chance that it has been uttered by a member of the Arizona State team in their preparations for their game against Iowa. The Sun Devil program is looking for respectability, revenge, and preserving an undefeated season; Iowa poses a formidable obstacle to achieve those goals. DevilsDigest.com takes a look at ASU's next opponent: the Iowa Hawkeyes.

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The Sun Devils are led by a fifth year senior and one of the best pro prospect quarterbacks in the country, Andrew Walter. The signal caller is just four strikes away from tying Jake Plummer for the school's record in career touchdowns, and 827 yards shy of matching Plummer's career record for passing yards and. Walter has started the season strong throwing for 533 yards (completing 37-73 passes), six scores and no interceptions. Yet by his own admission, he hasn't played his best in the short lived 2004 season. Fairly or unfairly, he has been criticized about the velocity of his throws, and locking onto receivers. If there was ever a game for Walter to get back into his usual form, it is this Saturday in front a boisterous Sun Devil stadium.

Junior Derek Hagan, 2003's leading receiver, is Walter's favorite target, and has started his season in impressive fashion. In two games, he has caught 16 balls for 273 yards and three touchdowns. Hagan is a lanky wideout who has deceiving speed, and will undoubtedly be the focal point of the Hawkeyes' defensive preparations. Sophomore Terry Richardson is a player who has finally starting to realize the vast potential and high expectations he has brought with him from Los Angeles. Richardson has 135 yards on ten catches, and a pair of touchdowns to his credit. The sophomore is probably the most athletic of the Sun Devil arial targets. Slowly but surely, junior Moey Mutz is becoming the team's third wideout, and he has been reliable thus far with an average of 45 yards receiving a game.

ASU's offense line has a good mixture of youth and experience. Junior right guard Grayling Love is the leader of the group, and while redshirt freshman center Mike Pollak is the youngest of his this unit, his play does exhibit maturity beyond his years. The maroon and gold will still miss starting center Drew Hodgdon, but they have been impressed with the play of sophomore Stephen Berg at left guard, who made his first ever start last week. The Sun Devils line up in a two-tight end set, and this group is highlighted by the number one tight end prospect of the 2004 class Zach Miller. Junior Lee Burghgraef is a prototypical blocking tight end, and not as flashy as Miller when it comes to the passing game.

At running back the Sun Devils feature, what the fans and the media affectionately call – a ‘three-headed monster.' The trio of Loren Wade, Randy Hill and Iowa City's own Hakim Hill provide quality depth and versatility to this position. Against Northwestern, Wade, last year's top rusher had a career high 24 carries for 112 yards. Randy Hill rushed for 50 yards in relief and helped the Sun Devils secure their second win of the season. Hakim Hill hasn't been seeing much playing time, but is a big play in the making every time he touches the pigskin.

The Devils' defensive line was an area of much concern coming into 2004, and giving up over 160 rushing yards a game, is hardly comforting when playing the potent Iowa ground attack. ASU's front four is thin at defensive end, but starters sophomore Kyle Caldwell and senior Ishmael Thrower are athletic enough to rake havoc on opposing quarterbacks. The defensive tackles consist of senior Gabe Reininger, a true nose guard, and senior Jimmy Verdon, a converted defensive end who brings much athleticism to the position, as does sophomore backup Jordan Hill.

JC transfer linebacker Dale Robinson has been an absolute phenom from the day he set foot in fall practice. The outside linebacker, who leads the team in tackles with 23, has great blitzing ability to go along with punishing hits. Senior middle linebacker Justin Burks and junior Jamar Williams round up one of the better groups in the Pac-10 conference, and one that should benefit from shifting back to a 4-3 alignment. Naturally, this group will be instrumental in halting the Hawkeyes' running game.

The secondary has also seemed to benefit from a more traditional alignment, and compared to the first two games it may be under-tested in the passing department on Saturday. The season ending injury to senior cornerback R.J. Oliver is hard to overcome, but fellow senior Chris McKenzie has complemented his blazing speed with refining his skills at cornerback, and has overall stepped up in light adversity. Thus, teams have been inclined to go after the less talented junior Josh Golden. ASU fans will always be on edge when it comes the durability of senior safety Riccardo Stewart. However, they can always count on him for pivotal plays such as the caused fumble in the fourth quarter, which halted a Northwestern drive deep in ASU territory. Fellow classman and safety Emmanuel Franklin has two interceptions in 2004, one of them, which he ran for a score against UTEP. Franklin is versatile enough to play cornerback if needed.

Kicker Jesse Ainsworth has improved leaps and bounds from his freshman year. He has converted 5-6 kicks, and his kickoffs are virtually all touchbacks. The sophomore showed his leg strength against UTEP nailing a career-high 48 yarder. Redshirt freshman punter Chris MacDonald may have an unspectacular 40.8 yards average, but he has showed great ability in angling 5 of his 12 punts into the 20-yard line. This week's game will be his biggest test ever, as he faces one the better special teams units in the country. Redshirt freshman Rudy Burgess has been the main return guy, and is averaging 12.5 yards a punt return and 29.2 yards a kick return. He has shown though a tendency to mix in fumbles with dazzling display of quickness and field vision.

ASU is 11-5 against Big Ten schools, and knows that in order to gain no. 12 they won't only have to play their best game of the year, but possibly their best game in the last two or so seasons. The Sun Devils' chances of winning this game boil down to yet another cliché - stop the run and establish the run. Nevertheless, it's crystal clear that containing the Iowa running game, while presenting its defense with a balanced and effective offense, will go a long way in sending the maroon and gold faithful home happy on Saturday night.


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