ASU needs tuneup before Georgia

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Thursday, September 11, 2008
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A portion of the student body held up “Bring on Georgia” signs during and after the ASU football team’s victory against Stanford last week.
Cute, but irrelevant.

Because if you have been checking the schedule and reading The State Press — every day, of course — you would know that the Bulldogs aren’t quite next on the schedule.

Be thankful, be very thankful. ASU will have one more tuneup before facing the No. 2 team in the nation Sept. 20.

And don’t be fooled, the Sun Devils will need it.

It’s not that they have to seriously worry about UNLV (1-1). There is almost no chance of overlooking a Rebel team which has fought rather valiantly in its first two games against Utah St ate and Utah, managing to beat the former 27-17.

We know this for a variety of reasons: First, because throughout the whole week, media mongrels such as my fellow staffers have continuously been asking coach Dennis Erickson this very question.

I could drop some quotes on you.

I could tell you how Erickson said his players “all know the schedule.”

Second, we also know this because an Erickson-coached ASU won all the games it was supposed to win in 2007. That’s part of the reason Erickson gets the credit he does. But I digress.

While UNLV is no USC, it also isn’t quite an NAU, either.

This, folks, is a very good thing for ASU.

The Sun Devils, with what seems like efficient numbers, need to improve if they expect to play against Georgia and its Pac-10 foes.
“We’re not near where we need to be to compete in our league,” Erickson said after watching his red-zone offense struggle against Stanford. “I just don’t think we’re there yet.”

But in reality, ASU needs this final tuneup to fix their running game.
Erickson has been very hush hush about senior running back Keegan Herring and his apparently re-injured hamstring. He declined to discuss details, only saying, “It’ll be a day-to-day thing with him.”

Let’s face it: The running game is truly the central concern for the Sun Devils this season. More than just junior running back Dimitri Nance will be required if competing with the elite remains an option.. Nance has been plenty productive, but he’s not the explosive running back this team is longing for.

Did you notice how much Stanford’s defense blitzed and hit senior quarterback Rudy Carpenter on Saturday?

While that will be a recurring theme this season, the permanent return of Herring would limit the pressure. Logically, two stud seniors in the backfield is better than one stud senior.

We all know the cliché about establishing the run. Here, though, it could not be more applicable.

If opposing teams are forced to respect the ground game, they will be limited to when and how they can blitz Carpenter.

And against Georgia and USC, ASU has to move the opposition’s linebackers and safeties off of the line of scrimmage.

In a way, it will be easier for teams to move men into the box and rush Carpenter than it will be to attempt to guard ASU’s variety of wide receivers.

So be thankful when you’re leaving the UNLV game early. ASU should have bettered the run by then. But more importantly, ASU’s hopes hinge on Herring’s healing hammy (applause for alliteration, please).

There is virtually no chance of oversight against the Rebels. But without a running game against the Bulldogs in another week, there’s virtually no chance of a win.

Tell Josh what you think at joshua.spivack@asu.edu.