Happy Festivus, Sun Devil Nation!
This revered holiday kicks off an important week for the Sun Devils, as on Saturday, they will battle Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
(For the 11 people still unaware of what the holiday of Festivus is, or for the "rest of us" who want to relive the genius that is Frank Costanza's madness, watch this clip):
Adhering to the time honored traditions of Festivus, let's examine some of the games key points.
Airing of Grievances
"The tradition of Festivus begins with the Airing of Grievances. I got a lotta problems with you people, and now, you're gonna hear about them"
- Stop the run: ASU's one weakness on defense has been stopping the run. From all-conference types to backups, opposing backs have had success finding running lanes against the Sun Devils. ASU now faces a team that runs and runs a lot and runs very well, but more importantly, runs an offense that they haven't seen. The triple option helps mask a talent deficiency, yet it can also be very effective against an aggressive defense such as ASU. Any missed assignments or over-pursuit by the Sun Devils will be costly.
- Low blows: A big part of the triple option offense is the large number of cut blocks used by the offensive line. These can be very effective for an offense, as well as being very dangerous for defensive lineman, who don't take too kindly to having large men dive at their knees and lower legs.
- Pay attention: Only three teams in the nation threw the ball less than Navy's 184 attempts. They ran the ball over 80% of the time, and that is not going to change on the 29th. ASU's secondary will be playing up in run support, but that can't allow themselves to be caught napping, as when Navy does throw, the gain yards in bunches. The Midshipmen are 7th in the nation in yards-per-completion at 14.25, and have a trio of speedy and dangerous targets that can do some major damage if ASU is caught cheating.
- Getting Lazy: It will have been 36 days since ASU last played, and as we see every year during bowl season, that extended break often leads to slow and sloppy starts. ASU has the advantage in nearly every area, but if they come out flat and lifeless—which has happened a few times this year—and commit mistakes, a disciplined Navy team will make them pay. A strong start is needed.
"It's a Festivus miracle!"
- This is the first ever meeting between ASU and Navy.
- Several ASU records are in danger in this game.
- ASU has a chance to move it's all-time bowl record over .500 with a win. Currently, they are 12-12-1.
Feats of Strength
"And now, as Festivus rolls on, we come to the Feats of Strength. Until you pin me, Festivus is not over. Let's rumble!"
- The Lines: Being a service academy, Navy doesn't pull in the caliber of athletes that other major schools do, and in no place is this more evident than along the lines. Navy's starting defensive linemen weigh an average of just 252 pounds, small by any standard and especially for a line in a 3-4 scheme. They'll be facing an ASU offensive line that averages over 292 pounds. That should lead to some hefty running lanes for the Sun Devil backs. On the flip side, the Midshipmen offensive line averages 286 pounds, but they have not faced the kind of talent that Will Sutton, Jaxon Hood and Carl Bradford will be attacking with.
- All the time in the world: Typically, 3-4 defenses are predicated on being aggressive. Not so in Annapolis, where, Navy ranks 94th in sacks and 102nd in tackles for loss. Given that lack of a pass rush (and the size disparity above), Taylor Kelly should be able to sit back and find the open receivers against a suspect Navy secondary. We've seen the two sides of Kelly this year. When he has time, he is one of the nation's most efficient passers. When he's under fire...not so much. On the 29th, we should see plenty of the former.
- Playing the big boys: Over the last two seasons, Navy has played a BCS conference team six times, and won just once (a 31-30 win this year over a 4-8 Indiana team). This is not a squad of top-notch athletes, nor one that fares well against the top level of college football. Simply put, ASU has better players at every position and is the better team. This is a game that can become a comfortable victory for Todd Graham and company.