ANALYSIS: Sun Devils Q&A

WILL ASU BE affected by the weather? What's the bread and butter of the Sun Devil offense? What's the chance Arizona State's defense brings a lot of blitzes? For answers to these questions and more on all things ASU, we asked the Publisher of to weigh in…

CF.C: What does the injury situation look like for ASU?'s Hod Rabino: ASU has definitely suffered its fair share of injuries in the off-season, as well as during the season. But despite all that the starting 11 on each side of the ball this weekend are virtually the same players that lined up during the season opener.

CF.C: The early weather forecast at kickoff is calling for temperatures in the low 30s, with a 50 percent chance of snow flurries. Do you see that as a factor or non-factor for ASU players?

Rabino: I sure hope it's a non-factor because winning on the road this season has been challenging as it is for ASU. Quarterback Brock Osweiler grew up in Kalispell, Montana so playing in inclement weather is obviously not foreign to him. The forecasted weather may lend itself for more of a running game and the way running back Cameron Marshall has been performing this year I suspect the coaching staff won't have a problem at all having him carry the ball 30-35 times if needed. Having said that, ASU's passing game is heavily skewed towards short passes and in theory even snowy weather shouldn't affect that aspect too much.

CF.C: Coming into this game, how would you characterize Arizona State's: Run Defense, Pass Defense, and Run Offense, Pass Offense, Special Teams.

Rabino: ASU's run defense has been somewhat disappointing ranked 7th in the league giving up over 149 yards a game. While its linebacker corps are one the best in the Pac-12, its defensive line is undersized and has often been pushed around by more physical squads.

Pass defense is ranked 4th in the Pac-12 surrendering just 235 yards a contest and ASU paces the league with 13 interceptions. Coming into the season the great concerns over ASU's secondary were well documented, but that group has overachieved to say the least. Truth to be told, the Sun Devils' pass rush is far from dominant so it's not as if ASU's back four are getting any significant help up front.

As mentioned, ASU's run offense has been very productive. Marshall leads the Pac-12 with 13 touchdowns scored and averages over 88 yards a game and as a team the Sun Devils average 150 yards a game. Osweiler has proven to be a better than advertised effective scrambling quarterback which has helped his team's ground attack.

As far as pass offense in concerned, ASU ranks 3rd averaging 291 yards passing a game and Osweiler is one of the more efficient signal callers in the conference. The ASU quarterback has quite an array of aerial targets at his disposal most notably wide receiver Gerell Robinson who has posted over 100 yards in three of his last four games. It isn't uncommon for seven or eight different players each game to catch passes from Osweiler.

Special teams for the Sun Devils are a classic case of a bag of mixed goods. Kicker Alex Garoutte is now 9 of 15 in field goal kicking after his 0 for 3 performance in a one-point loss to UCLA and his performance has been reason for concern. His kickoffs have been just average.

Punter Josh Hubner may average a modest 41.1 yards per attempt but has pinned a league leading 19 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line.

In the return game Jamal Miles is the only player thus far in college football this season that has returned both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown and leads the Pac-12 in punt returns.

The kickoff coverage group has left a lot to be desired this season, while its punt coverage unit is adequate.

CF.C: Is there any talk of switching kickers after last week?

Rabino: Alex Garoutte is by far ASU's best kicker. He was actually on a fairly good roll until his 0-3 performance at UCLA. Time will tell if last week was an aberration or not. It remains to be seen if the coaching staff does lose confidence in him and takes more chances on fourth down, or do they still send him out to kick from 40, 45 yards out. Either way he will be the number one kicker for the Sun Devils.

CF.C: How is recruiting going for the Sun Devils so far this year?

Rabino: This has been one of the best recruiting classes in recent Sun Devil history and at the time this article is being written it is ranked 26th in the nation by It definitely has been a while since ASU has sat atop of the conference's recruiting standings in November and this in large part is due to the dozen plus prospects who gave their commitment before the season ever started. The ASU staff has been very aggressive in their approach and the new logo and uniforms the team has introduced have had the positive recruiting effect you would expect.

If ASU can still win the Pac-12 South I can see the Sun Devils adding a few high caliber recruits which won't only assure them of being the league's best class but perhaps even help them nationally slip into the Top 15.

CF.C: For people who may not have seen much of them this year, is ASU generally an attacking defense with a lot of blitzes?

Rabino: Interesting you bring that up because fans have been vocal in their frustration over the lack of aggressiveness by the ASU defense and their tendency to stay in their base formation for the vast majority of snaps. Ironically, its linebackers and even safeties have shown to be effective blitzers but I don't expect the Sun Devils to show a plethora of blitzes on Saturday. It's not something that they have done much of all season.

CF.C: ASU's offense is highly rated this season statistically, while the ASU defense surprisingly is ranked No. 65 in total defense. Those are the opposite of what many in the media predicted in the preseason. What has been the key to ASU's offensive success, what would you point to as to why the D isn't ranked higher in total defense.

Rabino: The cliché of "bend not break" does apply to the defense in a major way. Giving up 385 yards won't help your total defense standing, but other stats portray this group in a more favorable light. The Sun Devils defense has given up just 22.3 points per game and leads the Pac-12 both in opponents' third down conversion rate and turnovers. All in all, it's hard to be disappointed with the performance by the ASU defense this season and you would be hard pressed to pin all of the team's three losses on this side of the ball.

CF.C: If you had to pick only one key to victory for the Sun Devils against the Cougars, what would it be?

Rabino: Good question. I don't know if the win in 2007 was so much of a key victory but it did help ASU attain 10 wins for that year and that is a feat that the Sun Devils have rarely achieved in the last few decades.

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