This Saturday, the UCLA Bruins will again be on the road, as they head into the desert to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils. In order to better get a handle on our opponents, I sent some questions to Brady Vernon over at our sister site House of Sparky and he was kind enough to answer them.
1. So, Herm Edwards! A lot of ink was spilled making fun of Herm’s hiring, but right now his Sun Devils sit atop the Pac-12 South (your mileage may very on what that really means). So how has he done this year and are Sun Devil fans happy with him?
House of Sparky: Edwards has done well. He’s created a very good defensive staff, thus why you say the improvement there. He also has recruiting going the right way and he’s loved by the players. For the most part, Sun Devil fans do seem to enjoy him, however there’s not always a ton of love for offensive coordinator Rob Likens from the Twitter fans.
2. N’Keal Harry is an absolute monster, and has some of the best catches I’ve seen all year. How does Arizona State deploy him and get him the ball despite the fact that everyone in the building knows the ball is coming his way?
HoS: Recently they’ve lined him up more in the slot, especially closer to the red zone. You’ll see a lot of back-shoulder throws in that aspect of the field. A ton of screens as well because as you’ve seen when he has the ball in his hands he can do just about anything.
3. Todd Graham’s defenses were known for their hyper-aggressiveness, though the last few years saw those defenses rated rather poorly by S&P+. This year Herm has the defense up to 78th, which isn’t great but is an improvement. What is the defense’s strengths and weaknesses?
HoS: The strengths are I’d say are limiting big plays and touchdowns, there’s a reason ASU has been in every game they’ve played this season. A lot has to do with the young playmakers such as freshman linebacker Merlin Robertson. The weaknesses are the young, mental mistakes, the defense will give up first downs on 3rd and long more than they should. There’s also communication breakdowns and dumb penalties as well.
4. ASU is coming off two big victories over Southern Cal and Utah, which is a pretty significant turnaround from back to back losses to Colorado and Stanford. What has changed in recent weeks?
HoS: Mentioned in the answer before, on defense those mental mistakes are starting to happen less and less, thus seeing a more complete game from the defense. On offensive, they’re sustaining drives more, and both the run and pass games have been clicking. Manny Wilkins has been very good the past two weeks, unlike other weeks either one of the two phases of the offense would work, not both and he’s been a big reason why.
5. What’s your final score prediction, and big impact player?
HoS: ASU wins it 38-20, and it’s most likely Wilkins (Will be his) and Harry’s last game at Sun Devil Stadium, look for those two to go out with a bang.
6. With our Roundtables, we end with the Extra Point, where you can talk about anything related to the game that wasn’t covered. So what’s one thing you want to talk about that I may have missed?
HoS: Eno Benjamin is the truth. He’s been very good this year, but Harry sometimes takes his spotlight, next year though, every in college football will probably be bringing up his name.
Again, thanks to Brady Vernon at House of Sparky for taking the time to answer our questions. Go check out their fantastic coverage of Arizona State football (and Arizona State athletics in general) for another outlook on our opponents, and check out our responses to HoS’s questions.