To get a Arizona State point of view on Saturday's match-up against the Sun Devils in Tempe we sat down with Cody Ulm of House of Sparky for a quick Q&A.
You're now nearing the halfway point in year two of the Todd Graham era. How do Sun Devil fans feel about his tenure so far and this season to date?
Things were fine in Sun Devil nation until the team lost to Notre Dame. And although I predicted Arizona State to lose to Stanford and Notre Dame in the preseason, I must admit that I was a little disappointed in the team after the most recent loss. Plain and simple, it was unacceptable for the Devils to play like they did against the Irish. Arizona State was out-coached, out-manned and outmaneuvered in every aspect of last Saturday's game. After the loss, it was probably the most vocal the fanbase has been about questioning Graham and his staff. But Graham and the ASU faithful have been quite lovey dovey up until that point so it shouldn't be a continuing issue as long as he gets the team back on track.
How has Taylor Kelly progressed in year two? What are his strengths and weaknesses?
More than anything, Kelly just seems to have a better grasp of the playbook which has allowed him to play faster and more aggressive. He doesn't force many passes anymore and he's as deadly with the back shoulder pass as any quarterback in the nation. That being said, his play his still drops off significantly on the road. For whatever reason, he never seems as comfortable and he's always prone to hold onto the ball longer away from Sun Devil Stadium.
Marion Grice is a guy that seems to be a threat both running and catching the ball. How do the Sun Devils move him around?
To be honest, I've been a little disappointed with Grice this season. Obviously the touchdowns are there but outside of the redzone, he's been an ineffective rusher at times. To be fair, much of the blame falls on the shoulder of his over-matched offensive line. They have rarely put him in the position to succeed this season. Even so, Grice doesn't seem to be as decisive as a ball-carrier as he was in 2012. He's trying to bump too many runs to the outside and he's very hesitant in between the tackles. But I still believe his vision is unparalleled so I do expect him to break out of this funk.
As for moving Grice around, Arizona State hasn't used him as much on the outside with the emergence of Jaelen Strong. Most of his pass-catching action comes in the redzone so that's something to watch out for.
Buffs fans know Kelly, Grice and wide receiver Jaelen Strong. Anyone else on offense that we should keep an eye on?
With the way offensive coordinator Mike Norvell has been running things, not really. Don't get me wrong, Arizona State has plenty of offensive talent. D.J. Foster is the team's best playmaker but his role has inexplicably been limited to slot/dump-off duties. Same goes for ASU's largest target, Chris Coyle. Coyle just isn't getting any love across the middle anymore. And Arizona State's most explosive rusher this season, Deantre Lewis, doesn't get nearly enough carries despite of his 8.4 YPC average.
Since Strong is literally unstoppable, Kelly tends to look relentlessly look his way. And Grice keeps getting force fed the ball even though his YPC average is down 2.6 from last year. But after seeing how brutal the offense was at times during the Notre Dame game, perhaps this is the week that everyone gets in on the fun.
How has Will Sutton's season gone so far? Who else are the leaders on this defense?
Sutton has been double teamed on most plays this season so his numbers have been down across the board. But even when he got one-on-one opportunities against Notre Dame, he failed to make an impact. So I guess it's safe to say his season has been a bit of a bummer. He has flashed that explosive first step at times in 2013 though so there is still a chance he gets his act together, especially since he's going to close out the season with a series of familiar Pac-12 opponents.
Beyond Sutton, the other leaders on defense are LB Carl Bradford, CB Osahon Irabor and S Alden Darby. Bradford supplies a constant motor, Irabor is one of the conference's steadiest defenders and Darby is the defense's quarterback.
The Buffs have struggled mightily against the Sun Devils over the past two seasons (outside of one half). How do you see this game playing out and what is your score prediction?
Let me preface this by saying I'm a huge fan of Mike MacIntyre and truly believe Colorado's program is trending in a positive direction. Now that I got that out of the way, the Buffaloes are going to get absolutely crushed. Arizona State has been an entirely different monster at home this season. And when you factor in that the Devils will be looking to take out their frustrations from last Saturday, this one is going to get ugly.
I'm going to go with 48-20. Arizona State plays like a poor man's Oregon at Sun Devil Stadium so expect the tempo to be blistering. ASU's defense is as aggressive as they come too (almost to a fault). I expect Colorado to have at least three turnovers and that's how Arizona State thrives.