Previewing the Season : Arizona State

25_medium  vs.  9_medium

Game #5 : October 4 vs. Arizona State (time and television TBA).

TwistNHook:  Ok, show of hands, who thinks we should just skip these guys, because, I mean c'mon, we already know everything there is to know about Arizona State University football.  Go Buffs!  Buffs, right?  It is the Buffs?  Can I get some verification on this?

Now, we are out of our non-conference play (and also 1 conference play) and onto the Pac10 portion of the schedule.  I think Cal can reasonably attain a 3-1 record going into this game.  And I don't think it is unreasonable to think Cal could be undefeated by this point. But will the good times continue to roll against one of the few Pac10 teams with a settled QB situation?

ragnarok:  Well, Rudy Carpenter can only hurt you when he's upright, and the Sun Devils' glaring weakness is its offensive line.  Pretty much everyone related to ASU football is tired of talking about how last year's O-line gave up a school-record 55 sacks, then graduated 3 starters.  Of course, when your line is that bad, is having to replace 3 starters a bad thing?  Is it possible to be any worse?

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[Caption Contest : insert your own Arizona State O-Line joke here.]  -  Image via www.leeds.ac.uk

TwistNHook:  With all these injuries to Pac10 QBs, ASU is probably in the best position there.  Fewest questions going into the season.  We know Carpenter is a good to great QB with a solid supporting cast.  The line is the concern, but looking around the rest of the Pac10 right now, ASU has to be feeling pretty happy about its QB situation.

HydroTech:  You know what bothers me?  The fact that nearly every sports magazine is picking Arizona State to be the 2nd best team in the Pac-10.  In my opinion, I think they're probably around the 4th best team.  Sure they won 10 games last year, but those wins against San Jose St. and San Diego St. sure were toughies (won by a combined score of 79-16).  When ASU played some real competition, they proceeded to collapse very nicely.  To wit: a 44-24 loss to USC and a 52-34 thumping by Texas.  Even against middle of the road teams and wounded teams, Arizona State had problems.  To wit: a 23-20 win versus WSU, a 31-20 win against a wounded Cal team, and a 24-20 win against UCLA and its treacherous "I'm doing my best to make UCLA suck" head coach Karl Dorrell.  Anyways, I personally wasn't that impressed with ASU last year and thought them to be inferior than their record indicated.  I think ASU's showing against Texas pretty much confirmed that notion.

ragnarok:  Yeah, count me amongst the unimpressed by ASU last year.  Sure, they won 10 games, but just one of those wins was against a ranked team (a clearly fading Cal), and just two were against teams that finished the season with winning records (us and Oregon State).  They finished second last year almost by default, as both Cal and Oregon succumbed to QB-injury-related disasters.

HydroTech:  Anyway, that's last year.  What about this year?  I still think they're same ol' same ol'.

All we hear about is Rudy Carpenter, Rudy Carpenter, Rudy Carpenter.  Year after year.  Blah blah blah.  Yeah, he's a "gamer" or whatever.  Yeah he's a scrappy lil' dude who finds a way to win but I think he's a bit rough around the edges and not as good as he could be.  In fact, I think he could be holding back the Sun Devils a bit.  How so?  Throw the ball away.  Last year he was sacked 55 times.  Yes, the ASU OL sucked big time but in football the QB has to know when to hold 'em and fold 'em.  Sure Carpenter will sometimes made something out of nothing with his gambler lifestyle but other times he'll take nothing into worse than nothing by not just throwing the ball away.  The pressure will be on Carpenter even more this year since ASU head coach Dennis Erickson will often use multiple WR sets (3, 4, and 5 WRs) and pass just about as much as he'll run.

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"A Sun Devil is actually a weather phenomenon many of you know as a whirlwind, or a dust devil without the dust."  Also, the Sun Devil logo was apparently drawn to resemble Walt Disney.  So now you know.  -  Image via mymindgrapes.files.wordpress.com

If Carpenter can't get the job done, then the workload will be on the ASU OL and their RBs.  First the OL.  ASU does return 2 out of 5 on the OL.  Whether this is good or bad, who knows.  I mean, when your OL gives up 55 sacks you have to wonder if you really want those guys back.  But of course, on the contrary those guys will usually get better as time goes on - usually.  Hopefully (for ASU, that is).  As for ASU's running backs, they'll return Keegan Herring who supposedly has 4.3 speed and ran for a 5.3 yard average last year (very good average).  Herring should be on Cal fans' radar and has a chance at being a Sunday player.

Aside from Carpenter, and returning WRs Chris McGaha (830 yards last year and 13.6 yard average) and Michael Jones (769 yards last year and 16.7 yard average) ASU's biggest offensive threat is their kicker.  Don't laugh.  Seriously.  Kicker Thomas Weber is only a sophomore and was 1st Team Pac-10 last year.  He hit 24/25 FGs and was 7/7 from beyond the 40 yard line.  Wow.  I do envy the ASU for something else besides their cheerleaders and co-eds.  I'd love to have a solid kicker like Weber.  Oh yeah, and Weber was the Lou Groza Award winner last year too (nation's best kicker).

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I'll bet we could have some photoshop fun with ASU kicker Thomas Weber.  -  Image via www.eastvalleytribune.com

Yellow Fever:  You know, my most prominent memory involving a Cal kicker was heckling Tyler Fredrickson right in front of the Mormon girlfriend of one of our fraternity brothers after a missed field goal.  Something like,

" FREDRICKSON!    OH MY YOU SUCK !"

Only for her to turn around and say, "I'm a friend of his."

Whoops.  Just another reason I'm going to hell.  And another reason we don't use our real names here.

ragnarok:  One of many, many reasons.  In any case, even though I wasn't that impressed with last year's Sun Devil team, I'm a good deal more wary of this year's edition.  However, even if ASU improves this year, they'll have a tough time matching their win total against a tougher slate (Georgia, plus visits to USC, Cal, and OSU).

TwistNHook:  I do think that the schedule favors Cal here.  Reasonable arguments could be made that ASU or Cal is the better team.  But we have ASU at home, plus no Georgia.  I am hoping that is what puts us over the top this year.

According to ESPN, last year ASU finished third in the Pac-10 in scoring defense (22.5) and fourth in total defense (345.2).

So, they definitely are improving from the old all-offense no-defense days.  They return a bunch of starters on DLine and have a rising star in Omar Bolden.  While a lot of the focus will be on the offense, don't be surprised if their defense stars this year.

And certainly if the O-Line is as bad as many forecast, they D will need to step it up.

I predict a 2-0 Cal victory.  Tough game, this one.

HydroTech:  Wow, TwistNHook actually says something insightful.

ragnarok:  I know!  Weird, isn't it.  I looked to see if he took that bit from an ASU preview article, but no matches.  It's legit.

TwistNHook:  Well, actually, I'm Omar Bolden.  I'm also the ASU Defense.  That's how I knew those things!

Yellow Fever:  So yeah.  We don't much like Arizona State.  Erickson's a vagabond.  Their offensive line sucks.  Anything else?

TwistNHook:  Maybe that's why CBKWit has been so silent throughout this whole process.

He's an ASU Offensive lineman!

I never knew!

So, how do you guys think this game is going to turn out?

CBKWit:  27 24 Cal.  How is it that I make far less money than all of you yet work much, much harder? You guys are commenting all day and I can't even check my email.  Damn social science degree.

ragnarok: Well, just don't tell my boss how much time I spend on this site. (Yet another reason we don't use our real names around here.

HydroTech:  My prediction: Cal 38, ASU 30.

Yellow Fever:  34-2.

ragnarok:  Is that a Cal win you're predicting?

Personally, while I definitely think this is a game Cal *can* win, I feel like the Bears will stumble a couple of times, and this is as likely a spot as any.  Call it a hunch, or a play on Dennis Erickson's success at the college level (FYI, Tedford is 0-2 against him as opposing head coaches), but I think the Sun Devils take it, 28-24.

Still, 4 out of 5 Golden Bloggers agree:  Cal beats Arizona State this October.  And just like dentists, 4 out of 5 of us are never wrong.

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