Arizona State Preview

What: No. 7 Arizona State (8-1 overall, 5-1 Pac-12) at Oregon State (4-5, 1-5)

When: 7:45 p.m. Saturday

Where: Reser Stadium

On the Air: ESPN/Beaver Sports Network

Series: 26-13-1, ASU. The Beavers have won four straight at Reser.

Last season: The Sun Devils jumped out to a 20-3 halftime lead and never looked back in a 30-17 victory in Tempe. Marion Grice rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns for ASU. Conner Hamlett led the Beavers with nine catches for 119 yards and a TD, despite Sean Mannion throwing four interceptions.

ASU’s last game: The Sun Devils are coming off a 55-31 rout of No. 8 Notre Dame, their first win ever against the Fighting Irish. They relied heavily on their defense, which returned two interceptions for touchdowns. For the game, ASU outscored ND, 28-7, off turnovers. The win was the Sun Devils’ fifth in a row.

Notes: If sophomore WR Victor Bolden catches 10+ passes on Saturday, he’ll accomplish something no other OSU receiver has done: Record 10+ receptions in three straight games. He caught 11 passes against Cal two weeks ago, and followed that up with 10 versus WSU last weekend. Sean Mannion’s 66 pass attempts last year against ASU is a school record. The Sun Devils last won at Reser in 2005, 42-25.

5 Keys to Victory

1. Turnover-free ball. The Sun Devils are one of the most opportunistic teams in the nation. They’ve scored 80 points off turnovers this season. Needless to say, the Beavers need to take care of the ball, or it could get ugly really quick. In two games against ASU, Mannion has thrown eight interceptions. So he needs to be extra diligent in throwing the ball away or even taking a sack.

2. Establish the run game. One way the Beavers can avoid turnovers is to run the ball consistently — and for positive gain. Terron Ward (4.5 yards per carry) and Chris Brown (4.8) ran well against WSU, yet the Beavers carried the ball just 24 times. If they are moving the ball on the ground against the Sun Devils, they need keep pounding away and keep the ASU offense off the field.

3. Keep Kelly in the Pocket. Taylor Kelly is known for being a dual-threat, as he can hurt teams with his arm and legs. And despite OSU’s struggles containing mobile QBs in recent years, the defense did a great job against Kelly last season, holding him to 15 yards on eight carries. The Beavers need to repeat that success again this year because Kelly struggles when he’s forced to be a pure pocket passer.

4. Stay on Strong. Jaelen Strong is one of the Pac-12’s best receivers, and might be the top big-play threat of the bunch. He’s averaging 14.2 yards per catch and has hauled in nine TDs. At 6-3, 212 pounds, he’s a tough matchup for anyone. But if anyone can contain him, it’s Steven Nelson. That battle will be one to keep your eyes on, and the Beavers need to come out on top if they want to pull off the upset.

5. Finish drives. The Beavers again struggled to score TDs last weekend, settling for four field goals. That’s not going to cut it against a high-scoring team such as Arizona State. Somehow, they have to get the ball into the end zone. It doesn’t have to be pretty…points are points. This would be a good game to run fly sweeps. Or run bootlegs. Just score baby… Plus, who knows who OSU’s kicker will be 🙂

Game prediction: 41-24, ASU. The storyline of this game is a “Tale of two Teams.” The Beavers have lost five straight, while Arizona State has won five in a row. Sadly, I don’t see those trends reversing, as ASU is riding high and the Beavers are struggling to stay afloat during a season that’s swirling around the drain.

Prove me wrong, why do you think the Beavers win?


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