Know Your Foe: UO-ASU

Hod Rabino, publisher of DevilsDigest.com responds to questions from eDuck.com subscribers about the upcoming opponent, the Arizona State Sun Devils. Kickoff for Saturday's game is 7:15 p.m. and will be carried nationally on ESPN.

Q:What is Aaron Pflugrad's impact on the team?

Much like all the ASU wide receivers the senior, who has started in all six games in 2011, has had his bouts with inconsistency. 180 of his 380 total yards came in the second game of the season (Missouri) but in the last four contests he has averaged just 37.5 receiving yards per game and has been held scoreless. In his defense, the Sun Devil offense by design spreads the ball among many aerial targets but Pflugrad would probably be the first one to admit that he is in a slump of sorts. Following the solid performance of Gerell Robinson and Mike Willie last week at Utah, one would assume that versus Oregon this tandem may get a little more attention than Pflugrad which could help the former Duck wideout get back on track. The defensive scheme employed by Oregon will naturally impact Pflugrad's performance this week as well.

Q: Is Burfict hurt? (Did he suffer cramps last game?)

If I had a dollar for each time I've been asked about that…Burfict is a player who plays most snaps at 100 mph so that style obviously lends itself to suffering more bumps and bruises compared to other players on the field and this is how you get a hurt-looking linebacker every week. Granted, Burfict could be in better shape which would help him be better immune to the physical abuse he takes but knock on wood he is able to play through all the physical punishment he receives.

Q: (Semi-tongue in cheek question) What steps has ASU taken to keep Burfict from imploding this year? (keeping his temper in check)

That point is well taken and is actually one that has been already brought up often through the first six games of the year. Burfict, by his own admission, is trying to walk the fine line of keeping aggressive but holding back enough not to commit the plethora of penalties and mental mistakes that have plagued him in his first two years in Tempe. So preventing him from imploding, so to speak, is really more his doing rather than following explicit instructions from the coaching staff. In fact, defensive coordinator Craig Bray wishes that his linebacker would play in a more aggressive and violent manner and time will tell if Burfict can eventually find that happy medium he has been unsuccessful in discovering this season.

Q: How will the ASU players handle the noise and the cold weather of Autzen stadium, especially if it is a cold rain?

While the road games at Illinois and Utah won't present the same noise elements as Autzen will, I feel that ASU hasn't been rattled so far playing on the road. Being an experienced team on offense certainly helps with that challenge.

The weather in Utah last Saturday, albeit with little to no rain, wasn't exactly considered a balmy day so I felt that ASU dealt with that challenge quite well too. Obviously, the more it rains the more ASU will probably have to turn to its ground game, but then again in an offense that doesn't throw downfield all that often I don't know if rain would have as much effect as it would on offenses who like to stretch the field more often than the Sun Devils do.

Q: How are the defensive tackles doing this year for the Sun Devils?

The entire defense for that matter has played very well from the third game (Illinois) on and that includes the defensive tackles. ASU's defense tops the Pac-12 in sacks and 3rd down conversions and is overall is ranked 2nd in the league. Therefore, it would be hard to complain about any unit on this side of the ball, including the defensive tackles. Will Sutton especially is having a strong October and paces all defensive tackles with 18 stops and Bo Moos leads the team with two recovered fumbles. Corey Adams and Toa Tuitea have been good rotation players and Joita Te'i played in his first ever college game last week and looked impressive in limited number of snaps late in that game.

Q: Is Vontaze Burfict coming back for his senior season? That is the rumor from a CBS affiliate.

This may be stating the obvious, but his projected drat status report from the NFL will go a long way is squashing that rumor or bringing it to fruition. The tempered play I discussed earlier could drop him from the sure first round prognosis he was enjoying during the pre-season and if that happens Burfict's decision has probably become that much tougher for him.

His best friend on the team, former high school teammate and fellow linebacker, Brandon Magee was forced to redshirt this year due to an Achilles tear suffered in fall camp and his return to the 2012 lineup could undoubtedly entice Burfict to stay for his fourth year. That rumor was probably more based on that fact rather than the draft prediction.

Q: Would you rather watch an interview with Aaron Pflugrad or his sister Amanda?

Since we both do work for Fox Sports Arizona I can't go against Amanda, but when you watch this video you can't deny Aaron's skills:

Pflugrad

Q: Why isn't ASU an annual super power with their population base, weather, beautiful girls and party school reputation?

Careful, you will wake up the "Sleeping Giant." In all seriousness, this question has been asked around Tempe since…forever. The way this season has been progressing and the quality of the 2012 recruiting class, it's hard not to be optimistic not only about the present state of the program but also its future. Aside from recruiting, I feel that lack of financial support, and I'm not necessarily talking Phil Knight levels, has held back the program. A fickle fan base in a four pro sports town has been in constant "wait and see" mode with ASU so maybe a successful 2011 can springboard this program to the levels that both ASU fans and outsiders think it should be at.


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