ASU 101: Devils Food

AFTER PLAYING Georgia tough the Devils foundered against Oregon State, diminishing their status as Pac-10 dark horse. ASU threw the ball for a ton of yards against the Beavers but miscues ensured they were never really in the game. There were plenty of skeptics of ASU after two creampuff non-conference victories over Louisiana-Monroe and Idaho State. Now the naysayers are in blowhorn mode.

Many ASU fans are calling for a change at quarterback and saying the Devils' bowl chances have evaporated overnight. It's hard to imagine Dennis Erickson won't have ASU fired up when kickoff comes around on Saturday.

Cougars (1-4) vs Sun Devils (2-2)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
2:00 pm Pacific Time

WHERE:
Martin Stadium (35,117)

TELEVISION:
None

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

THE LINE:
ASU by 21

LAST MEETING:
ASU won last year 31-0.

THE SERIES:
ASU leads 21-12-2

CF.C PREDICTION:
Cougars 28, Sun Devils 25

THE SUN DEVILS ON OFFENSE

Players to Know
Brock Osweiler, QB: Senior quarterback Danny Sullivan remains the starter, but he clearly hasn't been the answer for the Devils this year. Expect to see Erickson turn to the 6-8 true freshman Osweiler if Sullivan struggles. He already burned his redshirt a couple games back and could look to build him up for a late season run.

Overview
This offense lacks the potency Erickson's spread-attack is usually synonymous with -- The Devils have a decent between the tackles rusher in Dimitri Nance and a solid possession receiver in Chris McGaha, but neither is a gamebreaker. Sullivan looks the part and is efficient at times, but lacks the big time arm this offense requires. The offensive line is banged up, but they have experience and some depth.

Strategy
Erickson's offense is always built around the pass, but they have had trouble when they can't run the football. The Cougs need to find ways to contain the running game without exposing their secondary to this wide-open passing offense. The ASU quarterbacks, as was seen against Oregon State last week, can aid them with some mistakes on their own. Above all, the Cougs must keep the play in front of them and avoid big plays.

THE SUN DEVILS ON DEFENSE

Players to Know
Vontaze Burfect, MLB: The freshman super-recruit has lived up to his hype and looks to be a superstar in the Pac-10 for years to come. Already possessing NFL size and speed, he has been the immediate linchpin in ASU's run defense.
Dexter Davis, DE: An outstanding rush end. The senior has started every game in his ASU career.

Overview
ASU's 4-3 defense is statistically sound, although they have been aided by a soft schedule. They are particularly stout against the run, surrendering just 2.6 yards per attempt and just 75 yards per game. But teams who have abandoned the run have paid the price -- ASU leads the nation in turnover margin.

Strategy
Consistent and efficient passing is vital. The running game cannot be abandoned, but it likely can't be counted upon to keep the chains moving against ASU. Proper execution and rhythm are essential, and WSU might benefit by scripting the first 10-20 plays or so.

THE SUN DEVILS ON SPECIAL TEAM
The injury to kicker Thomas Weber has left a hole. Freshman Bobby Wenzig is starting, but the coaches have been looking at walk-on prospects. Holding ASU to field goals is more key than ever.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Of the 114 Cougars on the roster, a whopping 77 are in their first or second year with the program. And the youth has perhaps shown most at the start og games. WSU has been outscored 77-0 in the first quarter this season. This has simply got to stop if the Cougs want to win this week.

Excluding the obvious, ASU is a team that tends to settle in and play better as the game wears on. If WSU digs themselves into another multi-touchdown hole to open the game, the Devils won't dig them out. Taking their first drive down the field and into the end zone for a 7-0 lead would do wonders for the Cougs mentally.


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