The Irish look to bounce back this weekend as they travel to Dallas to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils in their annual Shamrock Series game. Brian Kelly and his team need a big win to help re-establish them as a program on the rise; Arizona State provides that opportunity. The Sun Devils were recently added to the Top25 after their victory over USC last weekend. While quarterback Taylor Kelly and his offense racked up sixty-two points, the Arizona State defense is another story.
Let’s take a look:
The Sun Devil defensive line brings experience to the table with three of the four starters being redshirt seniors. Coming into the season, ASU was said to have two of the best defensive tackles in the country in Will Sutton and Jaxon Hood. Sutton had been having a fairly modest season statistically until last weekend when he had two tackles for loss and a sack. Sutton is a big 305lbs and will be a force in the trenches. Jaxon Hood suffered a hamstring injury last weekend and will be replaced this week by redshirt senior, Gannon Conway. Conway has been starting at defensive end, but will have to slide inside to fill Hoods void.
Carl Bradford is the standout player in this unit for the Sun Devil defense. Last season Bradford led the Sun Devils with 11.5 sacks and established himself as a game changer on defense. Senior, Steffon Martin, is inconsistent as he disappeared against Stanford but had a solid performance against USC with 7 tackles. Chris Young, opposite Bradford has had 10 tackles in each of their last two games and helps set the edge against the run.
The Secondary of Arizona State is a bit of a crap shoot. They’ve been prone to give up the big play but have held their opponent’s to less than 200 yards per game through the air. Talent is not the issue with the Sun Devil secondary, but their talent is young. Their rotation includes, freshman, Viliami Moeakiola starting at Safety and two sophomores in the two deep rotation.
Arizona State’s rush defense in their Achilles heel; USC ran for 247 yards against the Sun Devils, and the Irish boasts a more talented stable of backs and a better offensive line, so look for the Irish to run wild. Brian Kelly made a point to establish a running game against the Sooners last weekend and I expect the same focus to be instituted this weekend. The running game will be the best defense for the Irish as the Sun Devil offense is quick hitting and explosive. With a solid effort on the ground eating up the clock, the Irish need to keep Taylor Kelly and company off the field as much as possible. If the Irish can’t establish a running game and fall behind early, this game could get ugly. The shoulders of Tommy Rees will not be enough to carry this team in a comeback effort.