Let's pile on some additional notes on yesterday's initial post on Arizona State. Just to make it clear, Arizona State is not eligible to get into a bowl game even if they end up winning their last two remaining games of the season again against UCLA and Arizona State. 2 of their 4 wins against FCS teams, so at best 2 more wins will still not get them to the 5 win mark, which is apparently could be enough these days for teams to become bowl eligible. Despite not having any post-season to play for, we can expect ASU to come out on fire because they sound like a team that is extremely anxious to get over the hump, after coming so close in so many games against quality competition, all season long.
ASU sounds like a team that is desperately trying to figure out how to win close games. They haven't gotten it done all season. However, with two games left at home, I have a feeling their coaches are going to have them fired up just like Steve Sarkisian got his team motivated against the Bruins. Moreover, thanks to UCLA's scheduling, ASU is going to have a whole extra week to get rejuvenated and ready for the Bruins. Here is the scouting report on ASU from CBSSportsline.com:
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE
Arizona State is averaging 30.2 points per game, a significant upgrade over last season, when the Sun Devils averaged 22.3 points. QB Steven Threet has had problems with interceptions -- he's up to 16 -- but he's had good moments and has shown potential in the spread offense. Arizona State seems set at running back for awhile with sophomore Cameron Marshall and true freshman Deantre Lewis. There might not be a star among the wide receivers, but it is a group that has size and depth, led by Kerry Taylor, who has 42 receptions for 519 yards.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE
Holding Stanford to 17 points was an excellent effort -- the Cardinal has scored at least 31 points in every other game this season. Statistically, though, this unit hasn't been as fearsome as last season. Arizona State is allowing 23.7 points and 354.6 yards per game, with both marks being slightly above average nationally. Undersized true freshman end Junior Onyeali has provided a spark with big plays, but LB Vontaze Burfict can be one of the nation's best when he plays under control.
The scouting report clip on the defense above mentioned that the Sun Devils haven't been as "fearsome as last season." However, they are coming off a great performance against Stanford. From Pitchfork Nation:
Kudos to the defense - What else could ASU's defense do on Saturday night? They were facing the best quarterback in the country and a road-grating offensive line that had paved the way for the 12th-ranked rushing attack in the nation. They held the potent Stanford offense to a season-low 17 points-25 points under their average and 14 points lower than their previous lowest offensive output of the year. In fact, it was Stanford's lowest point total since a 24-17 loss at Wake Forest in September of 2009-a span of 21 games. They held Stanford to 128 yards on the ground-another season-low. And they put more pressure on Luck than he's seen all season.
But when you're asked to be on the field for 42 minutes of a 60-minute football game, there's bound to be mistakes. That's what did ASU in against the Cardinal.
Unless Bruin offense can put together an effective ball control offense and keep them off balance with a good mix of run and pass, I doubt ASU defense has to spend that much time on the field on Friday. Meanwhile, on the offensive side of the ball, the key for ASU might be to "run the ball":
Run the ball. Arizona State is only 88th nationally in rushing at 133.8 yards per game, but some of that is due to the team's emphasis on a pass-happy spread attack. The Sun Devils have the personnel at tailback (Cameron Marshall, Deantre Lewis) to be dangerous, and they might be licking their chops after seeing UCLA's run defense, which has allowed 200-plus yards on the ground in six games this year. Arizona State will want to test the Bruins' strength up front.
And I imagine they are going to run straight at Sean Westgate's side (and away from Akeem Ayers) all afternoon long because Chuck Bullough will be too busy sipping his caramel macchiato to make any kind of adjustments. FWIW the ASU offense was misfiring against the Trees (again from Pitchfork Nation):
ASU ran only 49 offensive plays on the night, which was by far their lowest total of the season (previous low was 61 at Wisconsin). Half of their 12 possessions on the night ended without the Sun Devils earning a single first down.
After grabbing the lead on a td pass from Threet to Kerry Taylor in the third quarter, ASU netted 26 yards on their three possessions the rest of the night. That's just not enough offensive production to knock off a top ten team. Period, end of story.
If there was a bright spot offensively, it was the play of running back Cameron Marshall, who ran for 92 yards on just 12 carries and caught 2 passes for 33 yards. Meaning, Marshall was responsible for over 46% of the yardage for the Sun Devils on the night. Yes, you can complain that he only touched the ball 14 times, but again remember that ASU was only able to hold the ball for 17 minutes and change.
It's a broken record since we have been saying it all season and ever since Bullough took over this defense. If the Bruins want to win on Friday, they are going to have to go after Threet. They can't afford to sit back in their pathetic base defense (or nickel in 3rd and long situations) and have a decent QB carve up their soft (and mostly ineffective) zone. They will also need to find ways to get creative and come up with different looks and bring pressure from different directions.
I really would like to hope and believe that Bullough is going to coach inspired and have his guys focused and ready to display basic skills like tackling and wrapping up. Bullough needs all of that to happen if he wants to get another job beyond this season (if he or Chow come back to Westwood, Neuheisel is going to be on hotter seat next season without a lot of goodwill).
QB Steven Threet -- With 16 interceptions this season, he'll need to be wary of UCLA FS Rahim Moore, who had 10 picks last season. Although Moore's interception numbers have fallen off this season, he's still one of the nation's premier ball-hawks and a potential game-changer in Friday's game.
LB Vonatze Burfict -- Even more attention will be on the talented sophomore following his costly penalties at the end of the Stanford game. Burfict has to keep his emotions in check, even when calls don't go his way or when opposing players try to bait him into an outburst.
CB Omar Bolden -- He has a team-high three interceptions and will be going against an anemic UCLA passing game this week. If Bolden doesn't make a big play against the Bruins, his mere presence should give Arizona State the comfort of devoting extra personnel to stopping UCLA's running game out of the pistol offense.
Not sure the Sun Devils needs a great CB to devote extra personnel to stop our running game. The Huskies did just that despite having a less than mediocre secondary and they did just fine because our "offensive genius" seem to be mostly sleep walking through yet another game. We will see if things change a little on Friday.