I think it is probably wise to stay away from the big picture analysis of our season at least for two weeks. I know it is difficult not to get reflective after brutal losses and try to come up with explanations of how this season has been going off track for us. Yet as we have seen time and time except for two constants (Oregon and Stanford) this year's Pac-10 season has been very much like those unpredictable and wild 90s. While at this time the overall datapoints look hopeless and ugly for the Bruins, mathematically we are still alive for a bowl berth.
So with that in mind, we will try our best to approach this upcoming game with the notion that Bruins still have a shot at making a stand. Of course whether we have a shot against Arizona State depends on the health of Richard Brehaut. We haven't read or heard any updates since Thursday night when Brehaut was taken out for what appears to be displaying concussion symptoms after a cheap hit from the Washington Huskies (who for the second year in a row took our starting QB out using questionable tactics).
While we don't want the Bruins to rush Brehaut back and rather have him fully ready to go in that last game (which we expect to be a death match at the Rose Bowl), Bruins will have an impossible task if they have to go with either Darius Bell or Clayton Tunney against Arizona State. Still looking through ASU numbers, which stack up mostly against the Bruins, there are couple of nuggets that show that Bruins could have a shot, if they come out and play with a sense of purpose and focus. Let's get to them after the jump.
ASU has the same overall (4-6) and conference record (2-5) as Bruins. However, if you drill into their schedule this season, you will note two of those wins came against FCS programs - Portland State and Northern Arizona. Unlike the Bruins though they were in a pitch battle against the Ducks (losing by a score of 31-42) and lost a heart breaker against Wisconsin (19-20) in which a missed XP proved to be the difference. They are also coming back two nail biting losses against Southern Cal and Stanford. They missed a potential game winning FG against the Trogans while lost a bruising and physical game against Stanford (which might have been looking ahead to the Cal game) by a score of 13-17.
The ‘Devils did notch an impressive win over Washington State, demolishing them by a score of 42-0, which came after a humiliating loss at Strawberry Canyon (17-50), where the Bears had been impressive most of this season. Guess the only common opponent Bruins did better against was Oregon State, who the Sun Devils lost to by a score of 28-31. Then again that game was in Corvallis where the Beavers have been pretty solid except for the deflating loss against the Cougars.
So overall I think based on the scenarios above the tangibles line up most on the Sun Devils side. They are coming off a two tough losses including a bruising battle against the Cardinal. You would have to think UCLA is the "easiest" game left on their schedule (like it or not we have become "the homecoming team" for rest of the Pac-10) and they are going to be anxious to get better at our expense to finish the season with 6 wins (they will probably not get a bowl bid due to 2 of their wins coming against FCS teams).
As for season stats, ASU has the 4th best scoring offense in the conference scoring 30.2 points per game. Their rushing offense is so so, averaging about 133.8 yards per game (8th in the conference). However, they make up for it with a competent passing attack led by Steven Threet, which ranks second in the conference airing out 278.6 yards per game. Just like Nick Foles (formerly at Michigan State), Threet is yet another Big-10 transfer from a Michigan school (Michigan) to an Arizona one.
On the other side of the ball, UCLA now has the 4th best rushing attack in the conference averaging 185.8 yards per game. However, don't get too excited because ASU has second best rushing defense in the conference giving up only 119.7 yards per game on the ground. No matter who is at QB at UCLA, I am guessing Vontaze Burfict will be gunning for his head. If you don't know by now Burfict is perhaps the most intimidating defensive player in the conference, who also happens to have a history of acting like a dumb Trogan. Given that we have seen no imagination and courage from Norm Chow and Rick Neuheisel, it is hard to envision how the Bruins can get it offensively against ASU. However, there are couple of factors that give Bruins some hope.
First factor in play for UCLA here is that Threet has proven to be very error prone this season as he has thrown a conference worst 17 interceptions. He is not a very mobile QB unlike Jake Locker, Matt Scott, Andrew Luck and Darron Thomas, who have killed the Bruin defense with their legs this season. Moreover, the ASU offensive line has been pretty porous when it comes to pass protection (just like our "Filthy Five") this season as they have given up 24 sacks (ours has given up 25 to date). So once again it will be up to Chuck Bullough to dial up pressure with his base defensive schemes that have proven to be mostly ineffective except for little spurts this season.
Second factor that could work for the Bruins is that ASU is also terrible (just like the Bruins) when it comes to TO differential. Bruins are the worst in the conference at -10 this season. The Sun Devils are not all that better at -7. They have been mistake prone all season long, coughing up many close games. They also have serious discipline issues.
So this game could come down to who cashes in on the first big mistake. Bruins didn't get it done in Washington when they went it a shell like bunch of conservative wimps following early Husky TO. If they display the same pathetic tendencies and come in with the mindset of just trying to "hang in" with the Sun Devils, they will officially flush their bowl hopes down the toilet in the desert.
Guess I am a sucker. I am going to tune in the day after Thanksgiving for what will most likely be another frustrating, gut wrenching, and boring game, just hoping and praying for a Bruin win. Someone please help me.