ASU finally gets to face a starting quarterback again. Since the start of the NAU game, the Sun Devils have faced backup quarterbacks in their last three games. Cal senior quarterback Zach Maynard can beat defenders with his legs, as the Sun Devils will face another dual-threat quarterback.
But redshirt sophomore Taylor Kelly is coming off another impressive performance. He’s been great so far for ASU four games into the season. Kelly has a chance to redeem himself on the road after a sluggish start at Missouri. It’s the only bad half of football Kelly has played up to this point.
Senior running back Cameron Marshall has 95 yards rushing through four games. It’s strange to see Marshall has not had the workload expected before the season (around 20 carries a game) and freshman running back D.J. Foster has the same amount of carries, 32, as Marshall. The Sun Devils are still deep at the position, with Foster and junior running back Marion Grice each averaging 6.1 yards a carry.
But Cal has a deep group of running backs as well. Senior running back Isi Sofele had 1,322 rushing yards last season and leads the trio of backs for the Golden Bears. Along with sophomore Brendan Bigelow and senior running back C.J. Anderson, it gives ASU’s combination of Marshall, Foster and Grice a run for its money.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends
The Golden Bears will have the best wide out on the field Saturday, and it’s likely that way for the majority of their games. Junior wide receiver Keenan Allen is the third best wide receiver prospect on ESPN’s Scouts Inc. Top 32. He’s listed at 6-foot-3-inches, 210 pounds and racked up nine catches for 93 yards against USC last week.
ASU saw its wide receivers step up last week, particularly senior wide receiver Rashad Ross. The Sun Devils will need an encore performance from the group considering how costly their drops were in the offense’s slow start at Missouri.
Redshirt junior center Kody Koebensky said he’s 100 percent this week and is ready to play against Cal. He’s been perhaps the most surprising offensive player so far this season. He’s really handled the position well and looks to be a solid starting center for ASU.
Senior right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin has a chance to play Saturday. He injured his MCL in his left knee during the season opener against Nevada.
The Golden Bears will need him, as coach Jeff Tedford said he’s “very concerned” about ASU’s defense.
The defense line is a main reason why ASU averages nearly 10 tackles for loss a game. That’s tied for best in the country with Tulsa. Cal allows 8.25 tackles for loss per game, which is seventh worst in the country. Junior defensive tackle Will Sutton and junior defensive end Junior Onyeali must be licking their chops preparing for this game.
Cal’s defensive line is a lot smaller than what ASU has faced the past three weeks. Junior defensive end Deandre Coleman is 6-foot-5-, 311 pounds and leads the 3-4 front line with 20 tackles. The Golden Bears have allowed 189.5 yards a game, most in the Pac-12.
Cal has a young group of linebackers with just one starting senior, linebacker Robert Mullins. He’s second on the team with 31 tackles. Mullins also has two tackles for loss and recovered a fumble. But sophomores Chris McCain and Brennan Scarlett have also played well for the Golden Bears this season.
Junior linebacker Chris Young is a great blitzing linebacker. He leads the team in tackles (32) and tackles for loss (8.5). He’s done all of this while adapting to the collegiate level of play from junior college. Redshirt senior linebacker Brandon Magee is third on the team with 24 tackles and remains the leader of the group.
ASU’s secondary boasted how it was the best in the country. The numbers do suggest that, ranking fifth in pass defense. While it did miss three consecutive starting quarterbacks, this is a good group. Junior cornerback Osahon Irabor and senior cornerback Deveron Carr have played well this season and made up for the lack of depth at the position so far. Senior safety Keelan Johnson and junior safety Alden Darby together have 44 tackles and three interceptions.
Cal’s pass defense is ranked 79 in the country, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 66.7 percent of their passes for over 10 yards a completion. Senior safety Josh Hill leads the defense with 32 tackles. Junior cornerback Steve Williams is third on the team with 29 tackles and has two interceptions.
Senior wide receiver Jamal Miles is a dangerous threat to return a kick or punt to the house, but Cal has two fast athletes in Bigelow and Allen returning kickoffs and punts. Allen returned a 69-yard punt for a touchdown against Southern Utah. Coach Todd Graham stresses special teams consistently during practice. He’ll have his hands full on Saturday.
Like Graham said during Monday’s press conference, the Sun Devils’ struggles at Berkeley are irrelevant. They should be undefeated if it weren’t for the costly turnovers in the first half against Missouri. Graham thought before the season ASU’s two-game stretch of Utah and at Cal would determine the season.
The Sun Devils dominated the Utes, and they should dominate the Golden Bears.
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