Dave Campbell, editor of Devils in Details, an Arizona State news and opinion site on the FanSided Network answered a few questions regarding this Saturday’s battle in texas.
Arizona State has played three straight emotional football games. What do you they have left in the tank for the Irish? Is this the biggest match up of the year for the Sun Devils?
No question about it, the Wisconsin, Stanford and USC games were major challenges for Coach Todd Graham and his players. The second-half turnaround against Stanford may prove to be the turning point of the season for ASU; the Sun Devils fought hard to come back from a huge deficit and make a game of it. This was a huge confidence builder, and the result was a much more focused effort against USC. Honestly, ASU is right where many pundits thought they’d be at this point in the 2013 campaign: 3-1 and contending for the Pac-12 South title. The contest with Notre Dame has huge implications for the Sun Devils—mostly as a measuring stick of the team’s progress under Graham.
Will Sutton came into this season with a lot of the attention but has not quite backed it up yet. What has been the issue for Sutton?
There are a lot of theories about Sutton’s performance in the early part of this season. He put on about 20 pounds during the summer, and some say the added bulk has limited his speed and flexibility. However, the ASU coaches discount this theory, saying Sutton is now closer to his natural playing weight. The coaches also point out that Sutton is double-teamed on almost every play, limiting his ability to get into the opponent’s backfield and create havoc. As is often the case, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
Everyone knows Taylor Kelly. Who are the other stars on offense?
Remember this name: Jaelen Strong. A 6-4, 205-pound junior college transfer, Strong has emerged as one of the most dangerous receivers for ASU in many years. He has the skills and height to overcome most defenders, as well as amazingly sure hands. Strong leads Arizona State with 31 receptions for 433 yards—figures that rank third in the Pac-12. He has three 100-plus yard receiving games in the Sun Devils’ first four contests, including a career-high 168-yard effort against Stanford. Running back Marion Grice is known for one thing around Tempe—scoring touchdowns. He has scored 31 TDs in 17 games and averages a touchdown every 7.45 touches from scrimmage. More than 60 percent of Grice’s touchdowns have come from distances greater than five yards. Nearly 30 percent have come from distances greater than 15. All-purpose running back/receiver D.J. Foster adds another dimension to the ASU attack. Just a sophomore, Foster has shifty moves and a nose for the open field. The Notre Dame defense will have to account for his presence on the field at all times. When Kelly gets in trouble, he usually looks for tight end Chris Coyle. Another in a line of productive TEs for the Sun Devils (Todd Heap, Zach Miller, etc.), Coyle reminds us of Jason Witten for the Dallas Cowboys. He’s a dependable target who always manages to get open in the seam.
What is the biggest challenge that ASU will face in their game against Notre Dame?
Simple—distractions. Over the years, the Sun Devils have had a difficult time inhigh-profile televised games. Their performance in the first half at Stanford is the most recent example. At “Jerry’s World,” ASU will face an unprecedented level of scrutiny by the national media. And the crowd for this Notre Dame “home game” will undoubtedly favor of the Fighting Irish. Plus, Todd Graham is returning to his native Dallas for the biggest game of his career. Think there won’t be butterflies on the ASU sidelines?
Who wins the battle in Texas on Saturday night?
This game is a really tough call. On paper, ASU appears to be the better team. Notre Dame’s offense has been suspect this season, and they’ll have to score a lot of points to keep up Graham’s “high-octane” attack. One important factor: the Fighting Irish are used to playing in the spotlight. Big game jitters often result in turnovers and miscues, which is something that’s plagued ASU in the early going this year. At the end of the day, the Sun Devils should prevail. It just feels like their time.
Final score: ASU 33, Notre Dame 27.