The EDGE: ASU should finally win

Quarterback

EDGE: ASU

Washington State attempts nearly 52 passes a game. It’s not a surprising revelation under coach Mike Leach that the Cougars are first in the Pac-12 in passing yards. They’ve done this with two quarterbacks splitting reps — sophomore quarterback Connor Halliday and senior quarterback Jeff Tuel.

Leach said Tuel will likely play Saturday. He was knocked out in the first quarter of last week’s contest against UCLA.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly had another rough outing against a USC defense that hasn’t played well recently. Kelly threw three interceptions — all directly at defenders — and the offense scored just 17 points.

ASU coach Todd Graham hinted redshirt freshman Michael Eubank will receive more snaps this week, but Kelly should bounce back after a few inefficient weeks.

 

Running back

EDGE: ASU

Every team in the Pac-12 has racked at least 1,000 rushing yards this season, except Washington State. The Cougars ran the ball 209 times with a 1.6 yards-per-carry average.

ASU has a three-headed monster in senior running back Cameron Marshall, junior running back Marion Grice and freshman running back D.J. Foster. Teams have focused in on these three guys, thus hampering the offense the last few weeks, but they’re still three of the Sun Devils’ four biggest offensive weapons.

 

Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends 

EDGE: Push

Marquess Wilson has brought plenty of attention on Washington State’s program recently. He quit the team and released a statement bashing Leach and his coaching staff. In the statement, Wilson said Leach and his staff “preferred to belittle, intimidate and humiliate us.”

Wilson led the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. But in Leach’s offense, it’s easy to plug in another receiver. Most of the Cougar’s wide receivers are either freshman or sophomores, but they had two receivers with 100 receiving yards against UCLA last week.

This group has had a disappointing season. The drop off in talent from last season was probably the greatest in wide receivers, and it has showed this year. This group has been very quiet the last few weeks. Kelly has struggled to find open receivers, which has been part of the ASU offense’s problem.

 

Offensive Line 

EDGE: ASU

Washington State’s offensive line leads the FBS with 46 sacks allowed, adding up to 310 yards in yardage lost.

Even as bad as ASU’s offensive line has played, which has allowed 33 sacks this season, it still gets the edge over Washington State.

 

Defensive Line

EDGE: ASU

This will likely be junior defensive tackle Will Sutton’s final home game. With Washington State’s subpar offensive line, expect Sutton to have a monster game to continue his incredible season.

The Cougar’s pass-happy offense should help ASU’s defensive line, which allowed another running back to rush for 100 yards last week.

The Cougars are young up front in its 3-4 defense. They start two juniors — junior nose tackle Ioane Gauta and defensive end Matthew Bock — and freshman defensive tackle Xavier Cooper. Cooper leads the group with 25 tackles and two sacks.

 

Linebackers

EDGE: ASU

It’s Senior Day for redshirt senior linebacker Brandon Magee. This day was delayed for a season due to the Achilles injury he suffered during spring 2011. This will be a very emotional day for him, and he’ll surely want to his last game at Sun Devil Stadium to be a memorable one.

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Carl Bradford had his best performance as a Sun Devil last week against USC. His interception rivaled junior safety Chris Young’s during the game as the best ASU play this season.

The Cougars are fifth in the conference with 28 sacks this season. Redshirt freshman linebacker Darryl Monroe is second on the team with 60 tackles and three sacks. Senior linebacker Travis Long has 7.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss.

 

Secondary 

EDGE: ASU

Graham said senior cornerback Deveron Carr has been the most improved player on the team. He had a rough day against USC’s talented receivers. It’s also senior safety Keelan Johnson’s final game at Sun Devil Stadium. He’s made tremendous strides this season despite his relapses in recent weeks.

The secondary has struggled recently, but junior cornerback Osahon Irabor has been the one consistent on pass coverage. Irabor had a great pass break up in the end zone on USC wide receiver Marqise Lee last week for example. He’s had a strong year this season.

Washington State has collected 13 interceptions this season. Junior safety Deone Bucannon leads the Cougars in tackles, 76, and interceptions, 4. He’s been known to make a few hard hits on wide receivers.

 

Special Teams 

EDGE: Push

Senior punter Josh Hubner will play his last game at Sun Devil Stadium. He’s probably been the only bright spot on special teams.  He’s No. 2 in yards per punt with 47.2.

Washington State freshman running back Teondray Caldwell is No. 29 in the country in kickoff return yardage. He averages about 26 yards a return, yet he hasn’t scored a touchdown this season.

 

Overall: ASU

The Sun Devils need this win. They can’t afford to lose to a bad team like Washington State, who lost to Colorado earlier this season.

Graham said he wants to win this game for the seniors on Senior Day, but ASU is also a win away from a bowl berth.

It’s one of the few goals left for this team and it’s reachable. The Sun Devils would be the eighth team in the Pac-12 to reach bowl eligibility. What bowl the Sun Devils would play in remains a mystery, but they’re likely going to play in a bowl game without a Pac-12 tie if they beat Washington State.

 

Reach the reporter at mtesfats@asu.edu