In a short college football season, each game is critical to a team’s overall success and prospects for a bowl appearance. That’s why coaches avoid looking ahead at the schedule, and instead focus their preparations on the opponent at hand. This rule is especially true for Arizona State. Following back-to-back home losses to Oregon and UCLA, the Sun Devils (5-3, 3-2) hope to regroup against Oregon State (6-1, 4-1) and reignite their Pac-12 South title aspirations.
What kind of reception awaits Arizona State in cool, damp Reser Stadium in Corvallis on Saturday night?
Expect Oregon State in be in an inhospitable mood after its 20-17 defeat at the hands of the Washington Huskies last week. The loss dropped the Beavers to No. 13 in the national rankings, and is certain to add fuel to the fire in their contest with ASU.
After an impressive start to the 2012 campaign, Oregon State suddenly faces a critical decision impacting the remainder of its season. Coming off their first loss of the year, the Beavers have tapped junior Cody Vaz to start at quarterback against ASU after Sean Mannion’s four-interception performance vs. Washington. Vaz was 7 of 11 for 97 yards in relief duty in Seattle.
“Obviously, it’s one of those things that’s not easy,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. “You look at the integrity of the competition and you try to make a decision for the team that’s right this minute. We think Cody’s playing a little bit better right now and deserves the start.”
Vaz has showcased his skills in previous games, throwing for 506 yards and three touchdowns in wins over Brigham Young and Utah. He’ll be tested by an ASU squad that ranks first in the Pac-12 in total defense (322.0 yards per game) and pass defense (148.4). At this point in the season, however, it’s important to keep the Sun Devils’ defensive stats in perspective. Arizona State suffered a batch of injuries in recent weeks, and as a result, gave up a combined 88 points against Oregon and UCLA. Both opponents accumulated 450-plus yards of offense against a depleted ASU defensive line, which lacked the services of key starters Will Sutton and Junior Onyeali.
Arizona State hopes to return a number of its walking wounded against the Beavers.
Oregon State’s own stout defense is second in the Pac-12 in total yards and fifth in the country in rushing defense. It’s led by defensive end Scott Crichton, whose eight sacks are right behind Sutton for the conference lead. Crichton and Co. will challenge ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly, who had a solid outing against UCLA, completing 25 of 35 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns.
Two final notes: Arizona State has not beaten a ranked team on the road since 2002, and Oregon State has won its last three games in Corvallis against the Sun Devils. These factors increase the pressure on ASU coach Todd Graham and his team to shake off their woes and find a way to get back into the win column.
DevilsInDetail.com Prediction: Oregon State: 27, Arizona State: 22