ASU redshirt senior Mike Bercovici gets the nod here mostly because nobody knows who Arizona's starting quarterback will be on Saturday. Redshirt sophomore Anu Solomon suffered his second concussion of the season in Arizona's double-overtime win over Utah, and is currently listed as questionable to play in Tempe. In his place is redshirt senior Jerrard Randall, who tossed the game-winning touchdown pass to Nate Phillips in Solomon's absence. Both Randall and Solomon present different challenges to the ASU defense. Randall's biggest threat comes as a runner and Solomon serves as more of a traditional drop back quarterback with a better grasp of Rich Rodriguez's scheme.
Bercovici has been solid this season, and flashed some of his potential in the second half against Washington as he led the Sun Devils to a comeback win. He has thrown for 2,726 yards and 20 touchdowns this season with eight interceptions.
Saturday's matchup pits two of the top sophomore running backs in the country against each other in ASU's Demario Richard and Arizona's Nick Wilson. Richard has been a star this season, rushing for 820 yards and six touchdowns. Wilson, on the other hand, has rushed for 718 yards and eight touchdowns.
Not to be forgotten are the men behind Richard and Wilson. ASU sophomore Kalen Ballage has emerged as of late and has rushed for 486 yards and four touchdowns this season. Arizona redshirt senior Jared Baker has been a solid complementary back to Wilson, rushing for 689 yards and six touchdowns this season.
ASU co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson called Arizona's wide receiver corps the deepest in the Pac-12, and it's easy to see why. The Wildcats have four receivers with 500 receiving yards this season, with all four having between three and five receiving touchdowns. They have size in guys like redshirt junior Cayleb Jones and redshirt senior David Richards, and speed in guys like redshirt senior Johnny Jackson and junior Nate Phillips.
ASU's beleaguered offensive line has given up a whopping 36 sacks this season. It's no wonder why the Sun Devil offense has sputtered at times. Arizona's offensive line has done a much better job in keeping its quarterback upright, with the exception being the team's struggles with high or bad snaps when running out of the shotgun formation.
ASU's defensive line has earned the distinction of being one of the best in the Pac-12. Sophomore Tashon Smallwood has had a strong progression this year, picking up 35 total tackles with 7.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Freshman JoJo Wicker has added to the youth movement, recording 15 total tackles and five tackles for loss with three sacks.
Arizona is incredibly depleted at this unit after the loss of star Scooby Wright and others. ASU, on the other hand, is as deep as it has ever been at the position. Redshirt senior Antonio Longino was stellar last week, registering 2.5 sacks before being named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week award. He was the 100th player to earn conference player of the week honors in program history, and joins Bercovici and junior punter Matt Haack (both vs. UCLA) as Sun Devils who have earned conference player of the week honors in 2015.
The Sun Devils are going to be without redshirt senior safety and captain Jordan Simone for the rest of the season, but the embattled group still holds an advantage over the Wildcat secondary. Freshman field safety Kareem Orr is expected to play, according to coach Todd Graham. This means the experienced James Johnson would slide over and take Simone's spot. Senior Kweishi Brown received a confidence boost after struggling for most of the season with his interception in the fourth quarter of ASU's win last week.
While ASU's Longino was named conference defensive player of the week, it was Arizona kicker Casey Skowron who took home conference special teams player of the week last week. He has made 14 of 17 field goal attempts this season, with six of his eight attempts from beyond 40 yards making their way through the uprights. Punter Drew Riggleman has also been solid this season, putting Arizona's struggling defense in good position early and often.
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