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OPPONENT PREVIEW: ASU Sun Devils (with audio!)

Head Coach:  Dennis Erickson

Record: 2-2 (0-1)

Offense:  PPG: 30.5  YPP: 4.7

The Sun Devil offense has struggled through the first four games of the season.  Starting quarterback Danny Sullivan has failed to impress, completing just 51% of his passes with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Many are calling for the backup, true freshman Brock Osweiler, to take over the starting duties.  Sullivan will start against WSU on Saturday, but Dennis Erickson has announced that Brock Osweiler will play, with the situation undetermined (sound familiar?).

The running game has not produced for ASU, as they are averaging just 3.5 yards per carry.  Dimitri Nance has been the workhorse for the group, as he has carried the ball 68 times in the first four games for a 3.7 average.  The Sun Devil run game may get a much needed boost on Saturday, as they will be facing a depleted WSU front four.

Arizona State has done a phenomenal job in taking care of the ball so far in 2009.  They have lost just one fumble and thrown two interceptions through four games.  That, coupled with the play of the guys on the other side of the ball, should allow ASU to stay in every game.

Defense: PPG 16.2 YPP 4.2

On the defensive side of the ball, Arizona State may have one of the top squads in the nation.  They have limited the passing game and running game while creating turnovers.  What is even more impressive is that ASU has been able to do this while only sacking the quarterback three times the entire season, with just one of those coming from the defensive line.

The lack of sacks is not due to a lack of talent up front.  Defensive end Dexter Davis had eleven sacks in 2008.  They have also been very effective in the run game, as the opponents are averaging just 2.6 yards per carry.  If there was any time for the front four to put up some crooked numbers in the sack category, this weekend Wazzu's young and inexperienced offensive line provides that opportunity.

26-year-old linebacker Mike Nixon leads the Sun Devils in tackles with 26 and has also intercepted three times.  Freshman linebacker Vontaze Burfict is second on the team with 22 tackles, including three tackles for loss.  He is very fast and looks to have the type of athleticism that will see him playing on Sundays in the future.  WSU fans should know him well by the end of the day on Saturday.

The Sun Devils are in trouble if:  They give WSU a couple easy scores.  The Cougars are going to have a very tough time moving the ball against Arizona State.  If the Sun Devils take care of the ball and avoid big mistakes (as they have done so far this season) they should walk out of Pullman with a win.

As an added bonus this week, the opponent preview will include our interview with House of Sparky author Cory Williams.  Topics covered include fans’ satisfaction (or lack thereof) with Dennis Erickson, the ASU quarterback situation, why ASU’s defense has been so good, and a prediction of how the game will unfold.

As usual you can listen to the audio via the player below, or visit our podcast page for myriad subscription options. You can also find us in the iTunes directory under keyword "CougCenter."