Spaulding Roundup: "Arizona State. Nothing Else Matters"

Well I knew one of these days football was going to put Ben Ball in the backburner here on Bruin Nation but I didn't think it was going to get here so fast. lol As much of a downer the unthinkable loss (and we will probably have few more of those this season) against Cal State Fullerton was last night, right now my mind is completely locked into the huge football game on Saturday. I really hope everyone around Southern California - students, alums and fans - make an effort to pack the Rose Bowl this weekend because to me this might be the biggest game of the season.

While given our "Bruin instincts" it is natural for all us to think about that last game of the season, right now nothing else except ASU matters. CRN set that message yesterday in Westwood (emphasis added):

Just don't ask the Bruins to talk about any bowl games or crosstown showdowns that might exist beyond their home finale Saturday.

"Arizona State. Nothing else matters," coach Rick Neuheisel said Monday. "There's conversations all around about things that can't help us. Our conversations will center around the Sun Devils and what we have to do against a fine football team, and we'll give ourselves a chance for all of those other conversations to matter."

He knows full well how big this game is for both teams:

"I know they, like us, are trying to finish the season with a flurry," Neuheisel said. "And I know this game looms large for both programs, so looking forward to the game ahead, (we) keep grinding and keep pushing. (We're) very excited about the challenge. I think we're improving. I see signs."

Bruins will look for more signs this weekend taking on an Arizona State defense which plays at a whole different level than our previous two opponents. Jon Gold from the Daily News writes:

The Sun Devils rank 15 th in the country in total defense while surrendering just 301 yards per game and are 29 th in scoring defense at just 21 points per game.

Arizona State has 68 total tackles for loss and 22 sacks, with nine players registering more than five tackles for loss. Leading the way is defensive tackle Saia Falahola with 72.

"This is a very, very good defense, no question about it," Neuheisel said.

"Solid across the board. They've got a great pass rush, great run-stopping. We're going to have to make some plays and be a balanced team this week. It's going to require a great offensive plan."

A great offensive plan this weekend will entail providing some balance to Kevin Prince's recent breakout performances in last few weeks. More on that after the jump.

Arizona State is not going to throw a lot of surprises at our offense. They are going to bring the heat with their defensive front and try to disrupt Kevin Prince from getting into any kind of rhythm.  Saturday is going to be a challenge for Prince. I think he will have opportunities to go deep here and there during the game. However, more importantly for him he will have to keep moving the chains by spraying short and medium range passes to make that defense a little more elastic.

Hopefully Prince through some early completions will able to get the Sun Devils front-7 a little off balance and set up the running game for JetSki, Coleman and Knox. Speaking of our running game, the LA Times has the following from CRN:

"We believe we have the makings of a good running game," Neuheisel said. "We just have to keep banging away to find the right combinations."

Franklin leads the team with 532 yards rushing, but his fumbles have been a concern for two weeks.

"He just needs to get his confidence back," Neuheisel said. "Sometimes talking about something so much it becomes like, 'Don't think about the blue elephant over there.' "

Another option is fullback Chane Moline, who the Bruins have been turning to in the red zone the last two weeks.

While Chane is finishing off his senior season in style, we need Jet Ski to get back into it. We need him badly. If we can somehow manage to get him back in the same groove he found himself in before he tweaked his ankle against Cal, it would be a huge boost to our offense.

Meanwhile, on the other end ASU's QB situation remains unclear:

Coach Dennis Erickson said he won't decide on a starter for Saturday's game at UCLA until seeing how healthy senior Danny Sullivan (right biceps) and true freshman Brock Osweiler (left shoulder) are during practice. Also, sophomore Szakacsy's right elbow, an issue since the preseason, could be a factor coming off his most-extensive playing time.

"We've got to see how his elbow is," Erickson said of Szakacsy. "When he throws for a long period of time, it bothers him. His arm is not as strong as it was last spring, but it's getting there. He's got a pretty good chance to get back to full strength by spring (2010). He's very accurate and made some good throws (against Oregon)."

Erickson, like CRN has also been dealing with injury issues:

Players out for the season are offensive linemen Matt Hustad (knee), Zach Schlink (knee) and Mike Marcisz (shoulder); tight ends Dan Knapp (knee),  Stanley Malamala (jaw) and Chris Coyle (foot); wide receivers T.J. Simpson (ankle) and Brandon Smith (knee); defensive linemen Corey Adams (back),  Otis Jones (knee) and Jonathan English (knee); linebacker Gerald Munns (elbow); and cornerbacks Omar Bolden (knee) and Osahon Irabor (wrist).

Irabor and Coyle are true freshmen who would have played this season but instead are redshirting.

The most-recent losses are Hustad, Knapp and Munns.

Tom Njunge will replace Hustad at right tackle. Jovon Williams, if healthy, or Trevor Kohl will play at tight end, with Steven Figueroa also an option. Travis Goethel, the starting strong-side linebacker, also becomes the backup at middle behind Vontaze Burfict.

Burfict is a handful. I hope Kevin Prince takes some sliding lessons this week because if he gets an opportunity Burfict is going to do to Prince what Maluauga did to Cowan few years ago. This is a game in which Prince will have to play it safe when he finds himself in a collision course.

On our end it looks like Pressley will be out for another weekend. We could also get Jerzy Siewierski and Ryan Taylor back in action this weekend. Their replacements - Jess Ward and Darius Savage (respectively) - did a solid job last weekend. Hopefully the rest of the team can come out this weekend with the same tunnel vision they displayed up in Pullman.

GO BRUINS.

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