Preview Week 9: On to the next one…ASU’s Homecoming battle against UCLA

ASU (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) faces off against UCLA (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) on Saturday at 12 noon (3pm EST) in Tempe.  The game will be broadcast on FX.

I’ve heard a lot of words describing last week’s game against Oregon: humiliating, painful, laughable. Clearly not a positive outlook. I’d imagine the Sun Devils had to do a little soul searching this week in order to get their heads straight before Saturday’s match up against UCLA. It also happens to be ASU’s Homecoming game, where alumni, families and potential big-ticket donors will all be in attendance and expecting to feel good about their university by watching its team beat the Bruins. It’s another big stage, and the Devils need to show-stop.  UCLA is making the short trip down to Tempe with the intention of capitalizing on the events of last weekend in a game that holds significant influence over the standings in the Pac-12 South.
UCLA Quarterback Brett Hundley has been fairly consistent for the team thus far, throwing over 250 yards in 5 of their 6 games. A native of Chandler, AZ, he’s coming back to the state he once called home (and to a stadium where he likely attended a few ASU games in the past). In addition to Hundley, UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin could give the ASU defense some trouble, as he has 541 rush yards on the season.
ASU, the 6.5 point favorite, will need to provide standout performances from quarterback Taylor Kelly, running back DJ Foster, and defensive tackle Jaxon Hood. For Kelly, it’s about controlling the offense and keeping his mental edge to avoid costly mistakes. For DJ Foster, it’s about being reliable and explosive enough to keep the offense feeling like they’re in a groove. And for Hood, it’s to step up into the void left by Will Sutton, who was dropped in the first two minutes of the Oregon game with a knee injury. Friday’s MRI showed the damage wasn’t as bad as first thought, but he’s still considered week-to-week and it’s not likely he’s gearing up for Saturday.
Safety Alden Darby has been a rally force for the team, helping them channel their anger at losing to Oregon into something productive. Todd Graham identifies Darby as one of the team’s essential leaders, and key to developing the type of mindset that will enable the Devils to get the win on Saturday. As
a sidenote, Darby’s leadership earned him the honor of wearing the PT42 this week, an honorary practice jersey honoring Sun Devil alum and former NFL player Pat Tillman, who was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan in 2004.
As far as the fans are concerned, the early start time (Bloody Marys, mimosas and chorizo and egg burritos are on the menu for my group’s Saturday tailgate) and the phenomenal weather we’ve been having in Tempe are exciting enough. Most people here think that ASU will win, though not as
succinctly, but everyone will be glad to get rid of the memory of last week’s game.
The work ethic and game philosophy that Todd Graham has implemented in this season’s team is theoretically sufficient for a victory on Saturday, and people can appreciate that. However, the hypotheticals end at game time, so we’ll know by Saturday afternoon.

DJ Foster