Preview Week 12…Arizona State vs WSU: Devils look to make a mark on a season that’s quickly dissipating

The Arizona State Sun Devils (5-5, 3-4 Pac-12) are welcoming the Washington State Cougars (2-8, 0-7 Pac-12) to Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday afternoon, in a game that will close out the Devils’ season at home.  Next up on the schedule is the Territorial Cup down in Tucson, but that road leads through the Cougars and a game that the Devils, by all rights, should win.

It’s never that easy, especially for a team that saw season-lows in yards and points in their last game.  The downward spiral that has been the calling-card of Sun Devil football has happened once again, but the Devils are hoping to put a halt to it come Saturday.  The game isn’t on the radar for most college football fans, and no dreams of Pac-12 ascension hang in the balance, but there is a lower-tier bowl bid on the line.

The Cougars are dealing with their own issues that don’t necessarily include preparing to face the Devils; the team lost star receiver Marquess Wilson last week after allegations of abuse at the hands of head coach Mike Leach (who has a storied history of coaching behavior).  His departure leaves an already-struggling team in an even more dire condition, as he was their leading receiver and the centerpiece of his now estranged coach’s offensive scheme.   Currently ranked 6th in passing yards, their ground game (ranked 124th overall) might see more time on Saturday to accommodate for the loss of Wilson.

If ASU can reestablish the tempo they demonstrated in the first few games of the season, they’ll be more likely to escape another loss.  Taylor Kelly needs to forget the three interceptions he threw last week, and get back to a completion percentage over 70.  More important than Kelly’s ability to connect with his receiving corps will be the defense’s ability to set the tone against WSU’s quarterback (Connor Halliday) and his offense.  If Will Sutton and the defense (notably Carl Bradford at Devilbacker, who had a show-stopping game against USC) can get after it and give the offense more time (and confidence) to work with, I predict the game will swing in favor of ASU.  Sidenote: scoring the first touchdown has almost become a kiss of death for ASU.  Not to say that I hope it doesn’t happen, but it’s food for thought for those who watch on Saturday.

Since the game kicks off at 1:00 pm, tailgating also starts earlier.  Which means mimosas and breakfast burritos and hopefully not as much sun exposure as the last early game (and yes, for those in places other than Tempe with our eternal sunshine, I realize this isn’t really something to complain about).  An early game and subsequently shorter tailgate isn’t what the fans would’ve chosen for the last game, but we wouldn’t have chosen our 5-1 start to progress the way it has.  Such is life!  We’ll settle for a win against Washington State, and then it’s on to the big show: taking on University of Arizona at home.  Having said that, next week will mark some collaboration between myself and Gabriela, the UA College Football Girl rep.  Yes, we can get along!  We’ll be teaming up to make sure you know anything and everything relevant to the ASU/UA game.  Until then, Fear the Fork!

Linebacker Carl Bradford (photo courtesy of Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE)

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