This week we take on the Pac-12 South favorite Arizona St. Sun Devils. After three consecutive blowout losses for the Buffs, there's a solid chance that we're in for another one. It's another road game (I don't even want to try to remember how many consecutive road losses we're at now), we're still missing a number of key players, and ASU is coming off of a bye week and should be getting some injured players back. Yikes...
But I remain hopeful! Why? Because the young guys are getting their chances to have an impact. After getting into his first game, I'm excited to see what Malcom Creer can do. Also, the Sun Devils are achieving success in spite of their offensive line, which can still allow QB Brock Osweiler to be pressured and can sometimes struggle in the run game. Sure they have a high-octane offense, but they've been held to 20 points or fewer in more than half of their games. I think this one will be closer than the last three, and I'll tell you why:
- Tony Jones, Malcolm Creer and Josh Ford vs. Efficient Running
- Jones and Creer were solid filling in for Rodney Stewart last week, so this week they need to build on that. ASU's defense is solid, but can be beaten because they've lost so many players to injury. If we can run the ball well and gain first downs on the ground, we can keep ASU's offense on the bench and get some points on the board.
- On paper, this looks like a mismatch that favors ASU heavily, but if we get guys moving off the ball quickly, we may have a chance to nullify his impact in the running game. The benefit of having a guy the size of Jones is that he will be harder for Burfict to find through traffic. And if our blockers can get Jones (and the others) to the second level, I think they'll be able to make some big runs that could energize the team.
- Toney Clemons vs. The Disappearing Act
- This one still kills me. Toney Clemons has the physical abilities to be a very good and effective receiver. But he lets himself disappear with sloppy play. He needs to stop that to give whoever starts at QB for the Buffs a chance.
- Defensive Line vs. ASU's Offensive Line
- Our line has played well at times this year. If they can keep containment on Osweiler, they have a chance to slow this offense down considerably. Our ailing secondary could use the help, and I think Will Pericak, Conrad Obi and the boys have a chance to make a difference this week. I believe they can disrupt the ASU running game, and with the help from some blitzing LBs, can get to the QB. Other teams have done it to ASU this year, and I think we may be able to as well.
- True Freshman vs. Growing Up Fast
- There was a point last week where the most veteran player in our secondary was redshirt freshman Josh Moten. Young guys are going to be playing for us, so we need them to get their game-legs underneath them and play tough. Some of them made some positive plays, but they all made mistakes. If they can clean up some of the mistakes and learn from their experiences last game, we should see an improved performance from some of them. That will be a VERY good thing.
- The Entire Defense vs. Playing Full Speed
- This was a problem even among the veterans against Oregon. Guys were so worried about getting the young gun's lined up and focused on the big picture, that they weren't playing assignment football and they were allowing bigger gains than they should have. If they can just (to quote Jon Embree) "turn it loose," we should be able to make this a tight game.
Special Teams & Whole Team
- Special Teams vs. Mistakes
- This might have to be an every week matchup...STOP SCREWING UP!
- Offensive & Defensive Playcalling vs. Taking a Chance
- We're not going to win this game by playing a conservative game. On offense, we need to take chances, and on defense, we will occasionally need to call those all out blitzes. We are in no position to ‘play it safe,' and I want these coaches to make us feel like they're still playing to win. I don't want anything too crazy, but I do want to feel like we're trying.
- The Entire Team vs. A Healthy Mindset
- I appreciated Paul Richardson's comments about the season not being over, because if we won out and then won the Pac-12 Championship game, we'd still qualify for a BCS bowl, but we all know that the chances of that are preposterously small. But I still want to see these guys playing hard and playing for something. Whatever it is, I want to see that.