Arizona State football is back in Tempe: Our ASU vs. Weber State preview

Jamil Douglas is ready for football - Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The #19 Arizona State Sun Devils welcome the FCS Weber State Wildcats to Tempe Thursday under the bright lights of Sun Devil Stadium. While it may not end up as the most competitive game in Sun Devil history, Thursday will be a solid barometer of where this ASU team is at and where they can go.

These early season tune-up games are the biggest trap contests in sports. 99% of the time these FCS v. FBS match-ups mean absolutely nothing and the FCS squad gets absolutely mopped. 1% the home team chokes away their entire season in one fatal swoop (stings, doesn't it Michigan?). Now, could Weber State pull the upset of the century and beat Arizona State under the lights in Tempe? Yes. Will they? Lloyd has a batter chance of marrying Mary Samsonite Swanson. But this doesn't mean the game isn't worth a watch; here are your ASU football opener keys to watch for.

  • Arizona State scored 39.7 points per game last season. Weber State? 16... and they gave up another 41.4 a game. By my expert calculations, the rout will be on by halftime and 75% of the Tempe faithful will leave for drinks on Mill. That one guy in a gold tee with a notepad sticking it out in the Inferno? Yeah, that'll be me.
  • The Sun Devils are immensely more talented than Weber State, which means Taylor Kelly busting a 50 yard run doesn't mean as much as it would against literally any competitive FBS team. The little things will be the key barometer of where this team is at. They won't be obvious to notice (ASU's sheer talent will help compensate), but little problems tend to snowball. The smallest mistake against Weber could mean a touchdown versus UCLA; let's see if we start out on the right foot.
  • On a TK10 & Jaelen Strong note, we probably won't be able to gauge what kind of progress they've made in game one. Expect both to get on the board early and often, but CTG will only show what's necessary to win. Expect to get a better look against some better teams.
  • DJ Foster has struggled through injuries all camp long, which means he'll be handled with kid gloves in game numero uno. Look to see who gets snaps with the first-team in his place, whether it's Deantre Lewis or Kalen Ballage (poor wild card Will Middlebrooks isn't even listed on the fall depth chart).
  • Whether Kalen Ballage gets snaps with the first team or not, many already see him as the feature back of the future. Remember, little things (picking up blocking assignments, good hands, hitting the right holes, etc.)
  • For those wondering if De'Marieya Nelson will be the desert's version of Myles Jack, kick back and enjoy the game with the peace of mind knowing I'll be crammed in the student section like a sardine, baking in the hot sun, all while keeping a running tally of his snaps. Blog is life.
  • When the second team rolls in, be sure to focus on Mike Bercovici's play. While Manny Wilkins may be the heir apparent of the baby-Oregon QB throne, Bercovici will be his main competition for next fall. He might be our next Sun Devil quarterback... or our latest graduate transfer.
  • Visiting Team Fun Fact: "Weber freshmen in the 1930s were required to wear a striped beanie called "the dink" during Freshmen Week," so 18 year olds in Ogden are probably glad that's not still a thing...
  • Speaking of Weber, the guy to watch on the purple & white side of the ball is #8 Bo Bolen. Their feature back, returner and receiver; the 24 year old senior will be the entire Weber State offensive attack. I don't care what level you play at, 4563 all-purpose yards over three years (1695 on the run, 728 through the air) is impressive. Add in a two year football hiatus in '11 and '12 (Church of LDS mission), Bo will be first year head coach Jay Hill's premier talent.
  • Jordan Simone will most likely start at field safety, with Marcus Ball hurt and missing reps over the past couple weeks. Expect Jordan to cement his role with a strong game against Weber... and have it come into question again with a weak one.
  • Despite DJ Calhoun defeating all challengers for his starting role, Tashon Smallwood could be the defensive freshman who impresses this year. Smallwood is close to winning Will Sutton's old Tiger spot, with Jaxon moving back over to Nose. It'll be interesting to see what both freshman can do when the bright lights turn on them.
  • CTG condemned Solomon Means' play at field corner this week which was either a motivational tactic or a clear sign of things to come. Either way, Solomon needs to step it up if he'd like to keep his job.
  • By my calculations, 15 out of 22 starters are locked in, with Running Back (DJ plays Tailback), Nose, Tiger, Field Corner, Field Safety, Tight End and Devilbacker left to be resolved. Expect Deantre Lewis, Jaxon Hood, Tashon Smallwood, Solomon Means and Jordan Simone to fill those spots, with a committee approach at Tight End & Devilbacker due to Nelson's two-way nature.

Game kicks off at 7:30 PST on PAC-12 Network. For those who suffer under the thumb of DIRECTV tyranny, I'll be live tweeting the game (if the 3G at Sun Devil Stadium cooperates). Smile Devils; football in Tempe is back.

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