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CGB Pre-Season: Arizona State

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TwistNHook: How many Wildcat pass attempts at the goal-line you think we'll see this year?

NorCalNick: Arizona and ASU swapped mascots?!?

TwistNHook: Excuse me. Wildbear. How many Wildbear pass attempts at the goal-line you think we'll see this year?

Man, NorCalNick, so ticky tacky! I bet you want me to refer to the play as Crazy!

NorCalNick: Actually, I prefer calling it the wildcat. But this is CGB, and we don't let bad joke opportunities pass!

So does anybody else get the feeling that ASU is sliding into oblivion? Other than Vontaze Burfict, this has to be the most boring, nondescript team in the Pac-10. Besides Burfict I'm familiar with exactly two Sun Devils: Steven Threet and Lou Groza award winner Thomas Weber. And I only know of Threet because he's an NCAA nomad. Somebody find a way to make ASU sound compelling!

HydroTech: I'll give you a reason to fear ASU: Thomas Weber. You know, the 2007 Lou Groza award winner. He's pretty good, although his statistics tailed off a bit in the past two years, 19/25 in 2008 and 8/13 in 2009. So we should fear field goals. ASU is good at them.

Okay, more seriously though, we really should fear Burfict. That guy is a beast. How many players do you think he'll injure over the course of 2010? I'm putting the over/under at 6. He was ASU's #2 tackler last year. Presumably, he'll only get better too.

TwistNHook: How many players do you think Burfict injured since the start of this Roundtable??

Berkelium97: Who will generate more yards? The lowly ASU offense or Burfict in penalty yards?

TwistNHook: If ASU wants to generate offense, they'll need help from some younger players. They have minimal experience at the OLine:

Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson, trying to get things back in the right direction after back-to-back losing seasons, is trying a new offense with a new starting quarterback while having the same ol' problems on the offensive line.

The injury-plagued line was certainly one of the main factors in the team's struggles the past two seasons as the Sun Devils went 5-7 in 2008 and 4-8 last season. Things haven't changed much. Senior guard Jon Hargis suffered an ACL injury in the spring. Sophomore guard Zach Schlink, projected into at least a backup role, had to quit football just before camp because of knee injuries.

ASU doesn't have one senior on the offensive line two-deep.

Kodiak: The first thing that comes to mind when I think of ASU is how in the world Dennis Erickson survived after Vader threw him into the bowels of the Death Star. The second is whether there's a Vegas line on Vontaze Burfict doing something just completely insane like biting someone, headbutting a ref, or needing to be tased by the training staff.

More seriously, I'm really glad that this game is being played at home. Coming off an emotional and hyped game against 'sc, this one has all the earmarks of a tarp game. Although just 4-8 last year, ASU's defense was one of the best in the league and was also one of the youngest. They have a solid D-line featuring a standout tackle(Guy), a fast LB core with headliner Burfict(national All-American candidate), and a now-veteran secondary with possible star CB Bolden.(if he regains pre-injury form) They were particularly stingy against the run last year and could be stronger this year as their young talent is more experienced. Burfict is an absolute physical specimen who also shows tremendous instincts. During that heart-stopping Wild Bear play at the endzone last year, it was impressive how quickly he recovered and how much ground he covered to almost intercept Vereen's pass. All of the ASU press clippings talk about him "learning to be more disciplined" this year - which is a very polite way of saying, "we hope he doesn't kill someone. Especially on our own team."

OhioBear: When I think of ASU football, the first thing that comes to mind is Vontaze Burfict. The dude is a really good linebacker. And then I think of the defense in general, which was a good unit last year. And then I think of Dennis Erickson -- good coach (IMO), good offensive mind. But even with all of that, I can't help but feeling confident about the Bears' chances against the Flaming Anti-Christs.

ASU's offense was not dazzling last year. Maybe a lot of that was attributable to departed QB Danny Sullivan or to the offensive coordinator who was fired after the season. Whatever the reason for their issues on offense, I'm not sure that a new QB and new coordinator will pay dividends for ASU this year. ASU seemed to have a lot of questions on offense last year and I'm not sure they can all be answered. And if you're talking about ASU, you have to talk about discipline -- or a lack of it. ASU commits a lot of penalties: they led the Pac-10 (the bad way) in number of penalties (111) and penalty yards (more than 1,000). To put that in perspective, ASU committed 11 more penalties than the team with the second most (Oregon State) and were penalized for 200 more yards than the team with the second most penalty yards (Oregon) -- and ASU played one fewer game than those teams. By comparison, Cal led the Pac-10 (in the good way) in fewest penalties with 68 and had the second-fewest amount of penalty yards (642) in the league (behind only Arizona). Unless ASU improves in that regard, they will continue to hurt themselves and lose games because of it.

Kodiak: Offense is where the Devils really struggled last year. They had a revolving door at QB with youth(Osweiler) competing with inexperience(Szakacsy) and incompetence(Sullivan). Sullivan is gone, leaving Osweiler and Szakacsy to compete with Michigan transfer Threet. They brought in a new offensive coordinator, Mazzone, from the Jets (WR and personnel) to re-tool their offense. He coached for Erickson at Oregon State, so he's probably familiar with Erickson's favored single-back scheme. On paper, they don't have a lot of firepower at the skill positions, but that may be due to their woeful QB play last year. Where Erickson has really struggled, even during the Carpenter days, is putting together a serviceable O-line. They bring in a pair of touted JC transfers as well as some young talent back from injury...but who knows? And following the theme of "everyone has a better kicker than us," they have one of the nation's best place-kickers in Weber.

Just about everyone picked ASU near the basement of the conference, but I think they have the potential to be very, very dangerous. Their defense will keep them in a lot of games. If they can get serviceable play out their O-line and QB, I think they could be a really tough out. Erickson's teams seem to thrive in ugly games. If we get frustrated with their borderline-dirty play and let their defense take over, it could be a long day. It worries me that if it devolves into a slugfest, they have a huge edge in a field position battle because of their superior kicker.

Best-case, we're able to open things up for our running game by providing a consistent threat through the air. Their offense will probably still be a work in progress, so we have to avoid letting them get into a rhythm. Because their defense is arguably a bigger threat to score, we have to play smart and take advantage of our opportunities. Erickson teams are ultra-aggressive which often leaves them susceptible to big-plays via mis-direction. If Ludwig and Tedford can dream up something creative, it could go a long way towards breaking this one open.

As far as sure bets, there will be several personal fouls in this game - just bank on that now. It will be important for us to keep our composure and let them be the ones who make the key mistakes. I think this one will be too close for comfort, but the home crowd helps us pull it out. 20-16, Cal.

OhioBear: The Sun Devils' defense may keep them in this game, but I just don't see Cal losing this one. If we lose to USC the previous week, we'll be hungry for a win in what we will probably view as a must-win game. If we beat USC the previous week, I think the team is brimming with confidence and will not let up.

Prediction: Cal 28, ASU 13

TwistNHook: Score predictions?

HydroTech: I don't want to jinx ourselves but I think there's a decent chance we might win this game. I'm gonna say 31-17.

Berkelium97: I have little confidence in the ASU offense. Cal wins 24-10.

yellow fever: Cal wins 31-12. I have confidence in Thomas Weber.

NorCalNick: I see no reason to think that ASU will have much success on offense, so it's going to come down to Vereen and Riley providing enough production. They did it in an ugly game last year and if the offensive line stays remotely healthy they should be able to do it again. 31-20, Bears.