Arizona State is coming off an impressive 53-24 victory over then No. 20 Washington at home and looks to build off that win on Halloween night against Washington State. After hanging around for a while against No. 2 Oregon last week, WSU would like to dash the Sun Devils’ hopes with a little help from some cold weather in Pullman.
Here are five reasons why ASU will avoid a midseason letdown against the Cougars:
1) Arizona State’s Pass Rush
Despite being predicted as one of Arizona State’s biggest strengths to start the year, its pass rush had been somewhat mediocre through five games. After accumulating only seven sacks early on, Carl Bradford and Co. have put on a clinic the past two weeks by getting to the quarterback a combined 10 times.
2) Washington State’s Offense
Okay, I know the Cougars can throw the ball; after all, they did put up 557 yards on 89 attempts last week against Oregon, but this leads to quick drives and turnovers. It enabled the Ducks to run all over the Cougars (44 times for 383 yards) and control the clock. Washington State has also had 11 turnovers in the last two games.
3) Arizona State Receiver Jaelen Strong
Washington State did have a nice night defending USC WR Marquis Lee (seven receptions for only 27 yards), but I think the Trojans’ quarterback issues were more to blame for Lee’s performance. Against Oregon and Stanford, the WSU secondary was torched, respectively, by Josh Huff (five receptions for 75 yards and one TD) and Devon Cajuste (four receptions for 115 yards and two TDs). Both teams also had prolific rushing attacks to keep the coach Mike Leach’s defense guessing.
Look for ASU’s physical wide receiver, Jaelen Strong, to have a big night against Wazzu despite the frigid weather conditions.
4) ASU Running Game
Does anyone else think it’s sort of funny that ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly (249 yards) has more yards rushing this year than Washington State’s leading runner, Marcus Mason (208 yards)? Looking at the rushing numbers put up by Stanford and Oregon (621 yards combined), I am inclined to predict a field day for Kelly and Sun Devil RB Marion Grice on Thursday.
I’ll start by throwing the Cougs a bone: they did win the last contest with ASU on the Palouse, 37-27, in Connor Halliday’s freshman year. With all due respect, however, that Sun Devil team—led by Dennis Erickson and Brock Osweiler—had a tendency to choke away games in the fourth quarter.
With an overall series record of 24-13-2, Arizona State must prove this team is different and avoid a similar fate.