To get some inside information on the Arizona State football team, Daily Bruin Sports reached out to The State Press – Arizona State’s school newspaper – and asked a few questions about the Sun Devils before their upcoming game against UCLA this Saturday in Tempe.
All of the responses below come from Stefan Modrich, a senior writer and former Sports editor at The State Press.
Daily Bruin Sports: Is the real ASU closer to the team that started 4-0 or to the one that just fell to USC 41-20 while trailing 41-6 going into the fourth quarter?
Stefan Modrich: The short answer is that they’re somewhere in between, though I’ve thought since the beginning of the season that we would have a better indication of where ASU is after the Sun Devils play both of the Los Angeles schools. For obvious reasons, having another injury at quarterback (the second in the last three years) will lead to some questions about the team’s identity.
DB Sports: How do you think the Sun Devils will respond going back home to Tempe after their first loss of the year?
SM: I think they’ll respond well – they’re 8-2 in games following losses under Todd Graham and have bounced back after being trounced by UCLA and USC in 2015. Returning home to Sun Devil Stadium will be a big boost and could help ASU get an extra stop or two to preserve a late lead, if the Sun Devils can jump out ahead early.
DB Sports: Just like last week, UCLA is preparing for a team most likely to play without its top quarterback. How does the offense change with redshirt freshman Brady White behind center?
SM: The offense will change quite a bit, especially for fans used to seeing Manny Wilkins hurdling defenders and making big plays with his legs. Brady White has a strong pocket presence and is closer to a pro-style quarterback, but the offense under Chip Lindsey is still run-first. (Running backs) Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage still will be relied upon to set the tone on the ground and open up the defense to set up shots downfield for speedsters Tim White and N’Keal Harry on the outside.
DB Sports: So far, the ASU passing defense and the secondary have given up some huge numbers. Does it seem like it’s going to be a trend for the rest of the season or will UCLA face some resistance Saturday?
SM: If ASU can apply pressure like it did against (sophomore quarterback) Josh Rosen last season, it could tempt him to force throws into tight windows and stifle the UCLA rushing attack. That said, the secondary is a clear concern, with ASU’s pass defense being among the worst in the country in terms of yardage allowed. Even though the Bruins no longer have experienced targets like Thomas Duarte, the Sun Devils could be in for a long night if they can’t find a way to at least contain Rosen and Co.
DB Sports: Heading into the USC game, ASU was No. 1 in the conference in rushing defense before getting sliced to the tune of 123 yards and a touchdown for the Trojans’ Justin Davis. UCLA has had its troubles all season with its run game. Will the struggles continue for the Bruins?
SM: Based on the differential between ASU and UCLA’s rushing yards in their game last season, I’d say it’s fair to predict something similar. Davis has had success against ASU in the past, with the game at the Coliseum Saturday representing a coming out party of of sorts – he was incredibly elusive, but tackling across the first and second levels of the defense has been a serious concern going back to the last time UCLA visited Tempe two seasons ago. If the Sun Devils can manage to get in position to make stops but can’t execute and finish, then they’ll be in for an uphill battle Saturday.