Wednesday, August 15, 2007

2007 Preview: Arizona State Sun Devils

Ed Note: Well, the last few weeks I've been spending more time with my family and relaxing. Both were good for my soul but, unfortunately, reduced the time I could spend writing up these season previews. This will be the abridged version.

Heading into the home stretch, the Bruins get a pair of games at the Rose Bowl before the big cross town show-down with the Trojans. In week 10 of the season, coach Dennis Erickson will bring along the Arizona State Sun Devils on one of their few road trips this year. This is a very talented team with some explosive fire power on offense. Throw in a head coach who knows how to win and this will be a dangerous game for the Bruins

Offense

Rudy Carpenter had the typical sophomore slump last season. The talented signal caller should be back to form this time around and he should be one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the conference. Protecting him will be a senior-laden offensive line. Senior center Mike Pollak will lead this group with six returning experienced players. The Bruin front four will have their hands full and I don't know how much pressure they'll bring. The tackles, including Zach Krula, are very talented and should match up well with Bruce Davis and our speedy ends.

One overlooked element of the Sun Devil's offense last season was the running back tandem of Ryan Torain and Keegan Herring. Despite not starting the first five games of 2006, Torain ran for 1,229 yards, caught 18 passes, and scored 10 touchdowns. He is an aggresive north-south runner and he can punish defenses. Herring brings a nice alternative to Torain's power running with some great speed and agility. This one-two punch at tailback will be a bear for the Bruin front seven to handle.

The only area with some question marks is the receiving corps. One known quantity is senior Rudy Burgess who is switching back to WR from DB. He's elusive and has great speed and the UCLA corners will definitely will be challenged by this experienced receiver. Brent Miller takes over for his brother, Zach Miller, who went to the NFL after a stellar junior season. Brent will have some big shoes to fill as Zach was a crucial part of the Sun Devil offense last year. The other receivers will be taking on bigger roles, but by the 10th week they should be pretty comfortable in their positions. The UCLA secondary is excellent but will likely be left on islands as Walker blitzes Horton and the line backers to get pressure on Carpenter. If that tactic fails it could be a long day for Trey Brown and Rodney Van.

Defense

Nobody would call ASU's defensive potent the last few years but it hasn't been terrible either. This season looks like more of the same with some holes to fill and some question marks at all three levels. There is also some talented players mixed in there as well. The Sun Devils run a typical 4-3 configuration which UCLA will see a lot of this season.

Michael Marquardt and Dexter Davis are play makers but the rest of the defensive line is full of unknowns. The UCLA tackles should be well prepared for Dexter as they face Bruce Davis every day in practice. If UCLA's offensive lineman are comfortable in their new positions then they should provide some holes for the running game. There isn't a lot of depth here for ASU either and injuries could be a factor at this point in the fall.

The line backing corps is young with two true sophomores, but talented and athletic. Travis Goethel and Mike Nixon both had outstanding freshman seasons and they'll be called upon a lot to help fill any gaps in the front four. They're not the most experienced unit so traps, screens, and other misdirection could cause this group some trouble. UCLA also brings a lot of new formations and looks this season, but there should be lots of game film on both teams by November.

Josh Barrett is the star of a secondary that will rely on some juco transfers to bring some experience to this unit. They bring a lot of speed, quickness and some height, so there won't be many mismatches for 6'5" receivers Joe Cowan, Ossarr Rashan, and Dominique Johnson to exploit. If the Bruin run game is moving then it could open up some passing opportunities here. I think Norvell will direct Olson to throw away from defensive back Justin Tryon and pick on his inexperienced counter part on the other side of the field.

Special Teams

Arizona State has a very similar special teams situation to UCLA. The Sun Devil's lose 4-year starter Jesse Ainsworth to graduation. Taking over the kicking duties will be former walk-on Thomas Weber. He's an unknown quantity at this point. Jonathan Johnson was solid on punts last year and the senior should only improve in his final season at Tempe. The kick and punt return games are still up in the air.

The Verdict

Like the Oregon State matchp, this looks like a trap game to me. ASU has a lot of fire power on offense and they could really cause some problems if they get cooking. Unfortunately, UCLA always seems to have a let down game (or two) every year and if this team gets caught napping against Carpenter and company it could result in a defeat.

On paper UCLA should be able to beat this team. We have a great defense and should slow down the Sun Devil offense, our own offense should be clicking by this point in the season, and we have the all important home field advantage. I just have a gut feeling that we won't get enough pressure on Carpenter with his senior offensive line blocking for him. Like the WSU game last season, the Bruins struggled without an effective pass rush. I'm going to go against the conventional wisdom on this game and predict an Arizona State victory.

CalPoly's prediction: UCLA defeat. Record: 8-2 (5-2).

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm a huge Devils fan, but we usually play rather poorly against UCLA, especially in the Rose Bowl. You're assessments of the offense, defense, and special teams is pretty accurate. We have a stud freshman db named Omar Bolden who could surprise some people, provided he stays healthy. Our defensive front got a little thinner recently with some injuries. Overall, a very good assessment and I hope you're right in your prediction but I'm preparing for the worst. GO DEVILS!!!

CalPolyBruinFan said...

Thanks for the comment. I tend to not put too much weight into past records or winning streaks. Especially now that you guys have a new head coach. Streaks are made to broken and, if anything, the Sun Devils are due for a win in California.

I hope I'm wrong and we roll right over you guys. Good luck this year!

Anonymous said...

zach miller was a junior who left early for the nfl. nixon is running 2nd team line backer. a junior college transfer is the new mlb, morris wooten. robert james returns at the other lb spot along with goethel. right on about the running game. rudy burgess, mike jones, kyle williams, brandon smith, chris mcgaha, and kerry taylor are the wide receivers who are going to surprise people this year. good article.

fordo said...

Great preview. Stand up job in doing your research and in your assessments.

You're right about injuries...if we Devils suffer any at a couple crucial positions (DL for one) we could be in a world of hurt by this game.

However, I'll pick the Arizona State University Sun Devils to win their first game IN California in the past, I don't know...6 or 7 years with this game.

Again, good job.

Anonymous said...

Fordo,
Does your comment about the first road win in California mean that you think ASU will drop one to Stanford?

Anonymous said...

Arizona State hasn't won a road game in California since 1999. On the bright side, the last one was over USC. ;-)

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