Everything you need to know for ASU's key Pac-12 battle against the Oregon State Beavers is right here.
Arizona State (5-3, 3-2) vs. #13 Oregon State (6-1, 4-1)
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. PST / 10:30 p.m. EST
Location: Reser Stadium, Corvallis, OR
Point Spread: Oregon State by 4
TV / Radio: ESPN 2 / 620 AM
Weather Forecast: Mid 50s, overcast
Series History: Thanks to Oregon State's awful history, ASU leads the series 25-12-1. Last season's win over the Beavers ended a three-game losing streak for ASU, but the Sun Devils have had a hard time in Corvallis, going just 6-8-1.
Oregon State's Last Game: Taking on the enigmatic Washington Huskies on the road, the Beaver defense did an effective job in limiting Washington to just 293 yards while OSU gained 427. However, four interceptions by Sean Mannion gave the Huskies a huge edge as they handed Oregon State their first loss of the year, 20-17.
ASU on Offense: There were a lot of negatives to take away from the loss to UCLA, but the performance of the Sun Devil offense was generally free of them. Outside of Taylor Kelly's ill-advised interception near the end of the first half, the until was effective, racking up 43 points and 535 yards.
They will have their hands full with Oregon State, who fields a very tough 4-3 defense with stars at every level.
Up front, the Sun Devil offensive line—with starting right guard Andrew Sampson uncertain to play—will have their hands full. The Beavers have one of the best defensive linemen in the nation in defensive end Scott Crichton, who already has eight sacks on the year. He'll look to wreak havoc when ASU drops back to pass, but OSU also boasts the fifth-best run defense in the nation, with a pair of massive tackles in Castro Masaniai and Andrew Seumalo. With the middle likely clogged, ASU should be attacking along the edges frequently.
Quarterback Taylor Kelly had a great bounceback game against UCLA, and the Sun Devils will need him to have a similar strong effort. Should the line hold back Crichton and give him time, he should be able to make plays against an OSU secondary that could be without cornerback Jordan Poyer, one of the elite at his position in the country. Oregon State's secondary has struggled in their coverage responsibilities this year, and this could help the Sun Devil wide receivers make an impact. OSU's safeties have struggled in coverage throughout the year, so Chris Coyle could have a big game underneath while ASU's speedy wide outs Rashad Ross and Jamal Miles could hit some plays downfield.
The focal point of the Sun Devil attack will be running backs D.J. Foster and Marion Grice, both as runners and receivers. The pair continues to be electric, and facing the stout Beaver defense, they could be greater factors along the perimeter and downfield. The Oregon State linebackers, principally Michael Doctor and D.J. Alexander, are quick and have great range. Whether that is enough to slow down Foster and Grice will go a long way toward's Saturday's result.
- RT Brice Schwab vs. LDE Scott Crichton: Crichton has elevated his game to join the nation's elite pass rushers, with eight sacks already on the year. He's quick and powerful and can derail the ASU offense single-handedly with his penetration. Schwab will need a better showing than he had on Saturday to be able to counter the mighty Crichton.
- RB D.J. Foster vs. LB Michael Doctor: Foster once again proved why he is ASU's best weapon, leading the team in both rushing and receiving last week. His quickness and versatility are potent weapons, and OSU will look to Doctor, their top tackler, to stop him. Doctor has the speed and range to attempt to slow down Foster, and this will be a fun battle to watch.
- ASU's Interior OL vs. DTs Castro Masaniai and Andrew Seumalo: The Beavers have the nation's fifth-best run defense, and their massive defensive tackles are a major reason. Masaniai weighs in at 354 pounds and Seumalo is a "lean" 295, giving ASU's interior offensive line a hefty challenge in trying to move them off the ball. This will be more challenging with right guard Andrew Sampson in question for the game, meaning Vi Teofilo could make another start.
ASU on Defense: While the offense was mostly good last week, the ASU defense was dreadful against the Bruins and the going gets little easier against Oregon State. The Beavers love to throw the ball and do it very well, and have several explosive playmakers to make life awful for the Sun Devils.
The major story of the week is at quarterback, where starter Sean Mannion has been benched in favor of Cody Vaz after Mannion tossed four interceptions in last week's loss. Vaz doesn't have Mannion's prototypical size, but he's poised, very accurate and more mobile, and will still present a stiff challenge to the Devils.
Making Vaz' job a lot easier are the starting wide receivers, Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks. The duo has already combined for 94 receptions, which is 56% of the team's total. Despite defenses knowing where the ball is going, the skills of Wheaton and Cooks have made them very hard to stop. Wheaton has great speed and hands, and runs crisp routes. Cooks is an explosive package in a 5-foot-9 frame, and is reminiscent of former OSU star James Rodgers. Such is there talent, OSU likes to give the pair some carries in creative ways as well. Sun Devil cornerbacks Osahon Irabor and Deveron Carr struggled against the Bruins, and they will be facing their toughest challenge so far this season. If they are unable to contain Wheaton and Cooks, it will be a long night in the Pacific Northwest.
While they are catching most of the passes, the team has a pair of tight ends that could be troublesome to ASU safeties Alden Darby and Keelan Johnson. Colby Prince is 6-foot-5 and Connor Hamlett is 6-foot-7, giving them several inches on the Sun Devils secondary members. That pair has combined for 25 catches and three scores this year and will need to be accounted for underneath.
Oregon State ranks 111th in the nation in rushing, but they have a very talented back in Storm Woods. The freshman has great speed to gash a struggling Sun Devil run defense, and his toughness is often overlooked. He's also a talented receiver, ranking third on the team with 23 catches. While Woods gets most of the work, Malcolm Agnew, last season's starter, gets some carries, and is more of a between-the-tackles type.
An intriguing battle will come up front. ASU will likely have star defensive tackle Will Sutton back, but he's not yet 100% recovered from his knee injury. However, if he can make some plays as he did earlier in the year, the entire Sun Devil defense should benefit. The Oregon State offensive line, despite four returning starters, has been no better than average this season, and plays can be had. One area to watch is along the edges, where Devilbacker Carl Bradford and end Junior Onyeali can make a difference against tackles Colin Kelly and Michael Philipp.
- CBs Osahon Irabor and Deveron Carr vs. WRs Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks: There may not be a more lethal tandem of wide receivers outside of USC than in Corvallis. Wheaton and Cooks are both dangerous playmakers, who can work free and score on any reception. They catch a ton of passes, so Irabor and Carr know the ball is coming. It will be game over for ASU if they can't contain that Beaver duo.
- ASU's Pass Rush vs. Oregon State's Offensive Line: Even with Sutton back, the Sun Devil pass rush will face a heavy burden in trying to disrupt the Beaver passing attack. Oregon State's line is average at best, so the opportunity is there for Sutton, Carl Bradford and Junior Onyeali to make plays. If they don't, the ASU secondary may not be able to hold out.
- LB Brandon Magee vs. RB Storm Woods: OSU ranks just 111th in rushing, but that doesn't mean they don't have a quality back. Woods has been good this season, and will see the bulk of their carries. Magee has continued a strong season, and will be counted on to shut down Woods and the rest of the OSU ground attack.
Special Teams: It was a great day to be a Sun Devil specialist on Saturday. Kicker Jon Mora made all three of his kicks (although the longest was just 36 yards), and punter Josh Hubner was huge, blasting a career best 73-yard kick, and forcing a fumble on another boomer. The return game was quiet, although Jamal Miles did have his best return of the year, a 23-yard scamper on a punt.
Beaver kicker Trevor Romaine is back and has had some better consistency with his kicks than he did a year ago, connecting on seven of his nine tries. Punter Keith Kostol has pinned 17 of his 38 kicks inside the 20, and has forced 18 fair catches. The return game has struggled, despite the ever dangerous Jordan Poyer fielding punts. Malcolm Marable and Terron Ward have combined to average just over 18 yards-per-return on kickoffs.
ASU's To Do List:
- Be able to run just enough to not be one-dimensional
- Contain Crichton
- Get to Vaz and force some turnovers
- Do not turn it over. Not at all. Nope, not once.
- Limit the damage of Wheaton and Cooks
What It All Means: This should be another close affair for the Sun Devils, as despite the lofty ranking for Oregon State, both teams are fairly even in terms of match-ups. The return of Will Sutton will be a big factor, as the pass rush will be counted on to help out a secondary that likely can't contain Wheaton and Cooks. The Sun Devil offense should be able to score some points to keep it close, and like many conference games, will come down to who can force more turnovers and make a play or two in special teams. This game is there for the taking for both teams.
Prediction: Arizona State wins 28-27
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