ASU 101: New attitude, same late struggles

ASU PRESENTS A similar look as Stanford and UCLA, but with a bit less talent overall. New coach Todd Graham has seen a promising season unravel amidst a brutal four game stretch against ranked opponents. His Sun Devils hope to right the ship against WSU in their final home game. Taking a brief vacation from the snow, the Cougars hope they can finally put all the pieces together.

Cougars (2-8) vs Sun Devils (5-5)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
12:00 pm Pacific Time

WHERE:
Sun Devil Stadium (73,522)

TELEVISION:
Pac-12 Network

RADIO:
The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings.

THE LINE:
-21 ASU

LAST MEETING:
2011, WSU won 37-27.

THE SERIES:
WSU is 13-23-2 in the series.

CF.C PREDICTION:
Sun Devils 33, Cougs 23

THE SUN DEVILS ON OFFENSE

Players to Know
Taylor Kelly, QB: Duel threat sophomore from Eagle, Idaho with a very accurate arm (65 percent completions). Has thrown for 2,335 yards and run for 374 in a very solid first season at the helm.
Cameron Marshall & D.J. Foster, RBs: Senior veteran Cameron Marshall has found a solid partner in super-recruit D J Foster. Marshall does a lot of the grunt work, but Foster is more dangerous and versatile. The two have combined for 821 rushing yards and Foster has added another 473 yards as a receiver.

Overview
ASU runs a balanced, but fast-paced, no-huddle spread attack. They rank in the top 50 in both rushing and passing, but no higher than No. 45 in either category. The passing game has been efficient but conservative, focusing on a lot of ball-control.

Strategy
The Cougar defense has been very effective at times bottling up solid running games. They need to put as much pressure on Kelly as they can, while still keeping him contained. The receivers are not a strong point so the linebackers should keep their eyes on the backfield.

Key Statistic
128 receptions out of the backfield: ASU's top 3 receivers are either runningbacks or H-backs. Kelly will complete his passes and force teams to make solid tackles. THE SUN DEVILS ON DEFENSE

Players to Know
Will Sutton, DE: Sutton leads ASU with 10.5 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss.
Brandon Magee, LB: Solid all around playmaker who sat out all of last season with an Achilles injury. Leads the team in tackles (83) and has 5.5 sacks and 2 interceptions to his credit. Signed a baseball contract with the Red Sox in the off-season.

Overview
ASU's 4-3 defense sacrifices size for speed and looks to generate lots of big plays. Pass defense is the Devil's forte. Nationally, they rank No. 4 in passing yards, No. 14 in pass efficiency defense, and No. 2 in sacks. The Cougar's offensive line will once again have their hands full, but they will at least have size to their advantage. Run defense has been a different story for the ASU. During the four game losing streak, the Devils have surrendered an average of 252 rushing yards per game.

Strategy
Whether Jeff Tuel or Connor Halliday is in there, the Sun Devils will expect to be able to tee off on them. The running game could be effective, however, and must not be abandoned if it does find success. ASU will be flying around the football, and turnovers must be avoided at all costs. Washington State will have to get rid of the ball quickly and accurately, especially in the first part of the game when ASU is expected to be at their highest pitch.

Key Statistic
41 sacks: ASU is only one off the national lead in total sacks in 2012. Four different Devils have at least 5 sacks on the season.

THE SUN DEVILS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
ASU kicker Alex Goulette is only 3-8 beyond 30 yards this season. None of the return units are remarkable. Expect WSU to redeem themselves after last week's embarrassing effort.

FINAL THOUGHTS
-Much like Mike Leach, ASU's Todd Graham has been a stickler for rules and discipline. It seems to be paying dividends as ASU averages a mere 31 penalty yards per game, good for fifth nationally.
-The Cougars offensive line has more than had their struggles with pass protection, but the schedule sure has not helped. The Pac-12 features four of the top five teams nationally in sacks, and WSU themselves ranks No. 17.
- ASU and WSU have lost a combined 13 straight November and December games.
- The key to the game may be found early. ASU, whether they win or lose, has started off strongly. In many of the games they've lost, they've faded badly after the first quarter. In games they've won, they've been able to keep momentum on their side. WSU's chances in this game may well rest on their ability to counterpunch. ASU is likely to win the early battles, but can WSU limit the damage to a reasonable level and then bounce back. Another score of 37-7 at the half won't get it done.

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