One major key to this weekend's matchup with the Sun Devils is whether the Bruin offense can return to the dynamic and potent version we saw in the first three weeks, or whether the offense struggles the way we saw against Cal and, to a lesser extent, Utah
ASU's defense was ranked Number 1 nationally before the Oregon game - before being the key word. The Sun Devils were stung by a 43-21 thrashing at home by Oregon last Thursday that wasn't anywhere as close as the score looks. After ASU created a turnover and scored a touchdown within the game's first minute, the Ducks calmly rebounded and scored 43 points in the next 18 minutes. Ballgame.
ASU's defense took a potentially bigger hit by the injury of defensive tackle Will Sutton. Sutton, considered by some to be the nation's top defensive lineman, caused that early turnover but suffered a knee injury on the same play and did not return to the game. He is listed as week to week at this point.
If the Sun Devils are missing Sutton from the interior D line, that ought to open up things for the Bruins' ground game this weekend. Mora downplayed Sutton's injury, but running will certainly be easier if Sutton is missing, simply because he is an excellent player who can't be replaced. In his press conference today, Mora noted they just played Utah's great DT Star Lotulelei and that they will have to prepare similarly for Sutton.
It won't really change too much what we do. Obviously he's a great player. We just got done playing a really great player as well in Star Lotulelei. You change things just a little bit, but you just can't make wholesale changes to your scheme especially in regards to your blocking pattern depending upon one player You got to have emphasis on him, but we just gotta do our thing and do it as well as we can. If he's in there help when we can help and if we can't help the guy whose ever blocking him has to do a good job.
Mora spoke highly of Xavier Su'a-Filo's effort against Lotulelei, and XSF and his linemates will need to do a similar job this weekend to establish a running game and protect Brett Hundley and get the Bruin offense back to the performance we saw in the early season.
Along those lines (pun intended) ASU's defense will be very familiar with Noel Mazzone's offense and his tendencies, so controlling the O Line will be more critical than ever in allowing the offense to succeed this weekend. Coach Mora was asked how much knowledge the Bruins will gain from Mazzone's familiarity with the ASU players, but Mora seemed more concerned about what ASU will know about Mazzone's offense
Basically more about players than anything else, but he's gotta devise his game plan so he's gotta work that. The thing that we've got to be concerned about a little bit is that they have a great knowledge of our offense. Their players played against our offense every day in practice for the years that Noel was there so we'll have to change some things up a little bit, try to keep them off guard. But still you can't just scrap everything and start over. It still comes down to calling good plays and then your players executing those plays
The Bruins may work in a wrinkle or two, but there won't be many surprises to the ASU staff and players. The Bruins are going to have to beat the ASU defense straight up if they want to put up points this weekend.
Keep an eye on this stream as we will update it with our daily practice notes and other news as the week goes on.