(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
After ASU demolished NAU 63-6 in Week 1, skeptics were hesitant to jump on the Sun Devil bandwagon, calling Illinois the true test. The Devils went on to demolish the Illini 45-14, and moved up to 38th in the nation in the polls.
The near perfect 2-0 start has brought upon legitimate reasons to feel optimistic about the 2012 season. To say ASU came out of the gates fast is an understatement, as they are currently averaging 54 points per game and allowing just ten per game.
Yet over the last three years, road failures have hindered the Devils' success, going just 4-12. Adding to the challenge, ASU is 0-5 all time against SEC opponents, which now includes Missouri after moving over from the Big-12 over the offseason.
Coach Todd Graham's road record is solid, therefore providing hope for ASU to improve away from Sun Devil Stadium. To succeed on the road, one element is paramount.
"Focus is probably the key. I think just the mental aspect of it, and also going into a hostile environment," Graham said. "When you go on road, you have to go in there and have a different level of concentration and focus."
Road wins don't come easy. Graham went on to say, "If you want to be a championship caliber team, you got to go on the road and got to win."
Graham is exactly right; ASU did not compete in the inaugural Pac-12 championship in large part due to their 1-4 road record.
"What makes it tough on the road is the crowd. I'm excited to see how our guys respond," Graham said. "We take all our signs that are in our locker-room and carry them with us. We don't change anything."
Mizzou's loud atmosphere often comes in reaction to quarterback James Franklin. In last year's contest against the Devils, Franklin was dynamic, accumulating 319 pass yards, 84 rushing yards and three total touchdowns.
"Franklin really has command of what he's doing...haven't really seen anybody stop them," Graham said. "Franklin is the most dynamic player we've been against."
Coming up with a way to contain Franklin will be difficult, but the Devils attention to detail has been on point. ASU has a mere five penalties thus far, with only one from the starting unit.
The positive comments from Coach Graham continue to grow each week. However, depth in the secondary is thin, forcing Graham to make some adjustments.
"More concerned about the depth of the secondary than anywhere else," Graham said. "We're probably going to look at (running back) Deantre Lewis a little bit."
Injury wise, ASU will be without freshman linebacker Carlos Mendoza after re-injuring his shoulder. Mendoza had two interceptions in his starting debut filling in for captain Brandon Magee. Thankfully, Magee has been cleared and will practice all week. Safety Laiu Moeakiola is also likely to return from a hamstring issue.
ASU kicks off against Missouri Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN 2. The Devils need a victory to have a shot at cracking the Top 25.
"If we come out of this game with zero penalties and don't turn the ball over, I like our chances," Graham said. "This is going to be a heck of a ball game, these guys are really good."