OPPONENT PREVIEW: ASU Sun Devils

Head Coach: Dennis Erickson (170-87-1, 22-22 at ASU)

Record: 3-4 (1-3)

Arizona State comes into this week in desperate need of a win to keep bowl hopes alive.  They played two FCS teams to begin the season, and that leaves them with the likelihood of needing 7 wins to qualify for a bowl game.  With USC, Stanford, and Arizona remaining on the schedule, Washington State becomes very important.

OFFENSE 30.6 PPG 5.7 YPP #74 S&P

Starting quarterback Steven Threet has been cleared to play after sustaining a concussion on Saturday against Cal.  So far this season he has completed 58.9% of his passes with 11 touchdowns to 14 interceptions.  Against FBS competition, his completion percentage drops to 56 and he has thrown 11 picks to just 6 TDS, and throws one to the other team once every 16.5 passes.  The junior has taken quite a few hits, as the ASU offensive line has given up 19 sacks on the year.  Compare that to the three that WSU's last opponent, Stanford, has allowed.

Threet's favorite targets have been senior Kerry Taylor and junior Mike Willie, who have 28 and 26 receptions respectively.  T.J. Simpson appears to be the big play guy, leading the team with 17.36 yards a catch.  Running back Deantre Lewis has also provided some help out of the backfield, catching 14 passes for 237 yards.

In the running game, ASU is averaging 3.66 yards per carry against FBS opponents.  Deantre Lewis and Cameron Marshall have split most of the carries.  Lewis has averaged 6.79 yards on his 62 carries.  Marshall appears to be the guy they go to in short yardage and the redzone, as he averages 4.83 YPC and leads the team with 6 touchdowns.

The freshman running back Lewis looks to be a stud in the making.  He is a dual threat in the rushing and passing game.  Look for his name to be called early and often.  He will need to do well to keep ASU out of passing downs, where rank just 91st in S&P. Outside of Lewis, the offense has not performed all that well.  Against FBS competition, they are averaging just 5.2 yards per play.

DEFENSE 26.6 PPGA 5.2 YPP #22 S&P

The Sun Devil defense has kept the team in games this year, and is the main reason they kept pace with a pair of top 10 teams, Oregon and Wisconsin.  ASU has been especially stout in the run game, ranking second in the nation in rush defense S&P and allowing just 3.50 YPC.

Arizona State has not been as effective in defending the pass.  They rank #61 in passing S&P.  Against FBS competition, the Sun Devils have allowed 7.8 yards per pass, a 63.9 completion percentage, and eight touchdowns to just two interceptions.  They have not created much pressure on the quarterback, getting just 10 sacks on the year so far.

ASU has been successful by performing well when the pass is expected, taking advantage of their ability to stop the run on early downs.  Opponents are converting just 30.3% of their 3rd down tries and the Sun Devils rank 29th in performance on obvious passing downs.

The freak athlete at linebacker, Vontaze Burfict, has been the most valuable player.  He leads the team in tackles by a wide margin, posting 54.  He is also second on the team in tackles for loss with 5.5.  Defensive end Jamar Jarrett leads the team in tackles for loss with six.  Junior cornerback Omar Bolden is the only player on the team with more than one interception, and he has two.

Arizona State is in trouble if...the offense struggles on early downs, getting caught in third and longs and having to rely on the passing game.  For the defense, it is in trouble if it allows WSU to have success through the air early and lets them jump out to an early lead.

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