To say the ASU Sun Devils have started a promising season on the wrong foot is an understatement. At one point this squad was listed in the Top 25 preseason polls. Now they are the worst team in the Pac-12 South according to the standings. Having only scored 14 points in their conference opener against USC and ranking in the middle of the pack of most offensive categories, ASU is certainly not living up to expectations. Their challenge of climbing back into relevancy gets no easier as they head to Pasadena to the Rose Bowl to square off against the No. 7 ranked Bruins who just got done wiping the floor with Arizona.
Missed Tackling Opportunities
The Sun Devils have a stellar running back in Demario Richard and he looks to have a potentially big game in game changing runs. With the 353 rushing yards the Wildcats got last week over the Bruins it is likely that the ASU coaching staff will put heavy emphasis on pushing the pile and getting Richard to the second level. Once he gets there, the Sun Devil halfback may find himself slipping through the arms of a few Bruins defenders. Last week UCLA failed to wrap up the ball carrier 21 times. That number has apparently been circling in the mind of linebacker Kenny Young, but it is unclear how the battered UCLA defense will look to improve those numbers against another strong running game for the second week in a row. It will likely be a group effort to bring down the runners for ASU if the Bruins expect to avoid the upset.
Bercovici Must Make Good On Chances
The UCLA defense did nearly everything perfect defending the pass last week against Arizona. They made the combined efforts of Anu Solomon and Jerrard Randall look like high school players against an NFL quality defense by only allowing 100 yards on 8-of-26 passing. If the UCLA looks to dedicate a large amount of their defensive focus on the run game it would lead to the thought that the passer for the Sun Devils must make the most of the aggressive Bruins squad. Mike Bercovici did not perform well against USC as he threw an interception and barely completed over 50% of his passes for the game. If the Bruins send run blitzes up the A and B gaps of the ASU offensive line it will force Bercovici to roll out and try to complete his throws on the run, and he must find the right touch on the ball in those situations in order to stretch the field and get those first downs that come so rarely against the Bruins defense. If the ball doesn’t leave the signal caller’s early enough however, expect the contest to drag on and make those rooting for the visiting team plead for a quick end.
Need To Right Road Woes
To say that the travel games for ASU has been their undoing is an understatement. Last season two of the team’s three losses came on the road against Oregon State and Arizona. This year they started with a deflating and national embarrassment against unranked Texas A & M at a neutral location. Last year the Bruins went into Tempe and found a way to win, so the Bruins already have that hanging over the head of the Sun Devils. ASU must show that they are indeed capable of coming off the bus and starting fast and finishing strong if they do expect to be taken seriously again in the Pac-12 and the best way to do that is come out and play like the road team. Fast and swinging. So often the Sun Devils look like they are trying to set things up for a second half explosion rather than burying their opponent like many believed this squad was capable of doing. If they can open up an early lead and force Josh Rosen to beat them, then Todd Graham’s team may just have a chance of finally flashing their potential.
Kickoff for the contest is at 4:30 PM October 3rd. If ASU can at least keep it close or even come away victorious, they can look to build a comeback in the Pac-12 South as the season is still young. Lose this game and it may already be time to start talking about next year’s recruits.