Redshirt junior Taylor Kelly was dynamic in ASU’s 55-0 win over Sacramento State, finishing 23-31 with 300 yards passing and five touchdowns. He already looks to be on a completely new level from last season and currently owns the fifth best quarterback rating in the nation at 208.7.
Badgers’ redshirt sophomore Joel Stave hasn’t played poorly in his first two starts of the 2013 season, but he hasn’t been impressive either. Stave has completed 71.7 percent of his passes but has only 416 passing yards. Yes, the Badgers’ running game has been dominant, but Stave will have to be more of a factor against the Sun Devils. This isn’t Massachusetts, who the Badgers shut out 45-0.
The Sun Devils won’t lose the advantage at running back many times this season, but this is one of those weeks. The Badgers have racked up 780 rushing yards over their first two contests, placing them third nationally. More impressive is that the Badgers have had three 100-yard rushers in both of their games, led by redshirt sophomore Melvin Gordon’s 286 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior Marion Grice amassed only 59 rushing yards in the season opener, but the Sun Devils still managed to pick up 176 yards on the ground. Sophomore D.J. Foster will figure more into the rushing attack this week after only rushing one time for five yards last Thursday.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
The Sun Devils finally have weapons for Kelly in the passing game, led by redshirt sophomore Jaelen Strong. Five Sun Devil receivers caught touchdown passes in the opener, two of which came from tight ends. Senior Chris Coyle and redshirt junior De’Marieya Nelson give the Sun Devils much-needed versatility in the middle of the field.
Redshirt senior Jared Abbrederis is a good first option for Wisconsin (10 catches, 184 yards, 3 TD’s), but no other Badgers receiver has more than five catches or 70 yards to this point in the season. Someone needs to step up for the Badgers.
The Badgers’ offensive line is big. Very big. Each of their starting linemen goes at 318 pounds or heavier, and there’s no denying they can block well for the potent Badgers rushing attack. Redshirt senior left guard Ryan Groy was selected to the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award watch lists.
The Sun Devils’ offensive line allowed two sacks and missed multiple reads on run plays against Sacramento State. ASU has a very experienced line, though, and will need to bounce back strong against the Badgers.
Reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton and company looked very strong in the season opener. They will be a little undersized compared to the Badgers’ offensive linemen, but this is a very talented crew.
The Badgers switched to a 3-4 when new coach Gary Andersen took over and there have been no issues with the transition. Senior nose tackle Beau Allen runs 6 feet, 3 inches and 325 pounds and was a preseason First-Team All-Big Ten selection.
Redshirt senior and 2012 First-Team All-Big Ten selection Chris Borland is an absolute stud in the middle of the experienced Badgers linebacker corps, which features three seniors and a junior. He leads the Badgers defense with 14 tackles over the first two games.
Redshirt senior Grandville Taylor was a nice surprise last Thursday night for the Sun Devils, recovering a fumble and intercepting a pass, which he returned for almost 70 yards and nearly had a touchdown. Senior Chris Young, arguably the Sun Devils’ best linebacker, was dinged up in the season opener but will be ready to go Saturday.
Seniors Alden Darby and Osahon Irabor had strong opening games, and redshirt freshman safety Laiu Moeakiola showed flashes of brilliance. The secondary looks strong, and if redshirt junior safety Damarious Randall can return to the lineup, it would be a big boost depth-wise.
The Badgers’ secondary is young, highlighted by true freshman Sojourn Shelton starting at cornerback. Redshirt senior Dezmen Southward leads the group, though, and was a consensus 2012 honorable mention All-Big Ten.
Freshman Zane Gonzalez was only 2-4 in FG attempts in his first game as placekicker for the Sun Devils, but Todd Graham said he has full faith in him. Junior punter Dom Vizzare averaged 43 yards per punt and seems to have locked down the starting punter role for now. The Sun Devil return game didn’t get much action in the season opener.
The placekicking game is a mess for the Badgers. Junior Kyle French and sophomore Jack Russell are a combined 1-3 for field goals this year, with the one make from 21 yards. French also missed an extra point last week. Redshirt sophomore Drew Meyer has punted four times so far this season, averaging 43.5 yards per punt.
Overall EDGE: ASU
The one thing all Sun Devil fans want to know is how well the defense can stop the run. By no means will the Sun Devils be able to stop the three-headed attack of the Badgers, but if they can slow it and force Stave to throw, that would be optimal. The Sun Devils are much faster and more athletic than the Badgers, but Wisconsin is the bigger team. The Sun Devils have recent success at home versus Big Ten teams, which traditionally don’t play well out West. The Badgers are an experienced team that’s been to three straight Rose Bowls, but a blackout plus blackout temperatures should equal a Sun Devil victory.
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