This weekend Washington State will head down to Tempe to play the Arizona State Sun Devils (5-2). In recent weeks the Cougars have appeared to take over the spot of the second best team in the Pac-12 behind Washington. This weekend should be a pretty good test. Arizona State has been pretty solid this year, sitting at 5-2, but only at 2-2 in conference play. Washington State should be able to put up some points this weekend against an Arizona State defense that is giving up 34 points per game this year.
Players to watch for the Sun Devils: Demario Richard is the leading rusher for a team that is averaging about 165 yards per game on the ground. He has 495 of them, but to go along with him and create a good 1-2 punch at running back is Kalen Ballage, who is currently sitting at 9 rushing touchdowns on the year. Quarterback Manny Wilkins was limited in practice this week, so it’s still to be seen if he will be able to suit up and if he is able to play he provides a good dual-threat quarterback for the Sun Devils and a guy who can provide some explosive plays, but the Cougars might be able to force him into some turnovers if he can play. Koron Crump has 5 sacks for the Sun Devils defensively, making him someone that the Cougars will need to plan for.
Keys for the Cougars: Arizona State likes to bring pressure. The offensive line will have to communicate with each other and make sure that they are able to pick up those pressures and keep Luke Falk upright. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a number of screens called by the coaching staff to try and slow down the amount of pressure the Sun Devils try and bring. For the running game they will probably have some runs get completely stuffed because of the blitzing, but there’s also the possibility that they can get through the first line of defenders on a blitz and have a few big runs. Defensively, whoever the Cougars face at quarterback, whether it is Manny Wilkins or Brady White, they will need to force them to beat them. That means the defensive front will have to contain Ballage and Richard, with the secondary not letting standout receiver Tim White stretch the field on them. The Sun Devils should still be able to put up a number of points on the Cougars, but if they can hold them to some field goals when they reach the redzone and force some punts I like their chances to win. The Cougars offense has really heated up and became more balanced, making me think that the Sun Devils will have a pretty hard time trying to keep them off the board. Overall just expect a lot of points to be put up in Tempe.
Other information: The game kicks off at 7:00 PM PT on the Pac-12 Network. The Cougars come into this game as 8 point favorites and the over/under for the game is set at 64.5 and the weather is expected to be very hot.