Solar Satan Preview

It's high time to play football again. Mr. DeVaughn takes a closer look at Saturday's opponent in his weekly preview.

Last year, Arizona State came into Stanford Stadium battered and bruised and in the midst of an alleged mutiny against their head coach. However, don't expect the same turmoil-ridden club this time around as the Sun Devils should once again be a challenge for the Cardinal.

Stanford is trying to win three consecutive games for the first time in this series, but it won't be easy. Fifty-one letter-winners and 16 starters return from last year's team that lost four out of its last five games after a 5-2 start. ASU has generated the third-best overall record of Pac-10 teams, behind Washington and Oregon, since 1996 but that wasn't enough to save Bruce Snyder's job. After several seasons of high expectations that weren't exactly fulfilled, "Take the Money and Run" Snyder was given a rude exit by his superiors in Tempe. However, a new era has dawned in the desert.

Former Boise State boss Dirk Koetter (as in Cutter) inherits this experienced team that included 21 seniors and has promised a wide-open passing attack. This being said, Coach Koetter has what an offensive guru craves the most: a quarterback with both loads of skill and potential.

Lost amid the Broadway Joey Harrington hype is Arizona State's sophomore Jeff Krohn. With his performance against San Diego State (271 yards, 4 touchdowns), quarterback Jeff Krohn helped show that he is fact one of the two best young signal-callers of the conference (along with the Cougs' Jason Gesser). Krohn, the son of late-70's Arizona starting QB Jim Krohn, started nine games as a true freshman in 2000 and threw for almost 1700 yards and 12 touchdowns against just five picks. In his team's 38-7 rout of the Aztecs, he basically picked up right where he left off last year. Interested in legacies? Jake Plummer and Jeff Van Raaphorst were the last two Sun Devil quarterbacks to start that many games as freshman, and by their senior seasons they were on their way to leading Arizona State to the Rose Bowl.

Koetter's offense is the spread attack that has been used to give Northwestern and Oklahoma their success in the last couple of years. Krohn will throw short passes to the likes of receivers Donnie O'Neal, Shawn McDonald, and Delvon Flowers, and expect them to break tackles and run wild after the catch. O'Neal is impressive target at 6'2" and 180 lbs, a senior who averaged almost 17 yards a catch and snagged seven touchdowns last season. The top three rushers also return from 2000. Delvon Flowers, Tom Pace and Michael Williams rushed for nearly 80% of their team's total rushing yards in 2000. The Sun Devils, like Stanford, boast an impressive O-line. Center Scott Peters was a First Team All-Pac-10 selection last year, while guard Levi Jones made second-team honors.

When ASU has had their best teams since joining the Pac-10, it's been with a solid and experienced defense. They were tops in the Pac-10 in defense in 1982 (10-2, Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma), and their near-National Championship season of 1996. Last year, they finished a relatively weak eighth in total defense in the Pac-10 but the unit does have its standouts. Sophomore Terrell Suggs could be the next dominating pass rusher, following the likes of Jim Jeffcoat and Shante Carver. Suggs was last year's league Freshman of the Year with 10 sacks and 16 tackles-for-loss.

The linebacking corps loses Adam Archuleta, the leading tackler in the Pac-10 last season. However, they do return Solomon Bates, an imposing defender who had 93 tackles and three interceptions last season. In the secondary, ASU boasts senior captain Willie Daniel, a safety who last had 57 tackles and three interceptions in 2000.

ASU seems so always have a strong kicking game. While there are no more Zendejas brothers (that we know of) on their way to Tempe, Mark Barth led the conference with 15 field goals in 2000 and also kicked a 49-yarder - tops in the Pac-10 last season.

The Skinny:

Coming off of several seasons of turmoil, exasperated ASU followers might by ready to go back to their strip malls and baseball stadiums with swimming pools. However this game could go either way. Stanford has not fared well against passing teams in recent years (torched by virtually every quality quarterback since Drew Bledsoe as Washington State), and will need to defend the pass well to overcome the Sun Devils. Players like Tank Williams and Ruben Carter, starters since the their freshman seasons in 1998, will need to come up big if Stanford has a shot at winning. I think they will.

We smoke these guys out of their desert holes, 34-23!

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