ASU Football: Bye week bonanza

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Todd Graham is ready to tackle the challenges of a bye week and he's hoping his players come out ready for a battle against Washington State next Thursday.

Each week, college football coaches around the country face incredible stress preparing a game plan for their upcoming opponent. This week, Todd Graham is under that same kind of pressure, but it feels a little different.

Graham and the rest of the Sun Devil coaching staff are dealing with the rigors of a bye week, as Arizona State does not have a game this weekend. On paper, it's a week off. In reality, it's a whole lot more complicated.

The Sun Devils must stay physically and mentally sharp while maintaining the stride they hit during the Washington game on Saturday. Even though there won't be a new mark on the Sun Devils' record after this weekend, that doesn't mean this week of practice isn't important.

"This week's big for our preparation and our guys showing the maturity they can handle this and showing that they can handle this mentally," Graham said after practice on Tuesday.

The Sun Devils have a slew of players who've been banged up over the past few games, but the team still went through an abbreviated practice on Tuesday morning at Sun Devil Stadium. Graham says the coaching staff has studied how to deal with gaps during the season, and they've adapted aspects of bowl preparations for this week's break.

"You don't want to lose the momentum you have and you want to make sure you're getting better every day so it's kind of a balance and I think we have a good beat on that," Graham said.

On Tuesday, Jaelen Strong and D.J. Foster worked out on the sidelines during practice while nursing injuries and the rest of the squad took the field without pads or shells to work on special teams situations. Graham knows his players are banged up and he's a proponent of working out the kinks on the field instead of dwelling on them in the locker room.

"I'm not one of those coaches that goes around saying, ‘Oh we're so sore.' I hate that way of thinking. So is everybody else. What is that going to do, anything?" Graham said.

The Sun Devils actually don't have a true bye week. Instead of having 14 days in between games, Arizona State will have 12 because it competes on Thursday Oct. 31st in Pullman, Wash. The Sun Devils will take on Mike Leach's Washington State team in what has quickly turned into the Cougars' marquee home affair. With so much emphasis on the game coming from Washington State, Graham says the Sun Devils can't afford to take their time off lightly.

"We're not approaching it like a bye week. We've only got about a half of a week actually. We're not doing any pounding, but we're doing a lot of mental stuff, a lot of work," Graham said.

News and Notes

  • True freshman Marcus Ball ditched his green no-contact jersey for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury at Camp Tontozona. It remains to be seen if Ball will be available for next Thursday.
  • Graham said he's studied the art of preparing for bowl games because he lost the first one he ever coached in. Looking back at last year's Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, it's safe to say Graham might have a few good ideas for dealing with time off.
  • The Sun Devil head coach praised Marion Grice and Taylor Kelly and wondered aloud as to why they aren't receiving more national recognition. Grice leads the country in scoring.
  • Graham said Mike Norvell was the best coach he's ever worked with, and he has total freedom when it comes to offensive play calls. Graham cited a 53-point effort against Washington as an example of Norvell's genius.
  • When asked about national rankings, Graham indicated it was surprising to see Oregon as low as No. 3. He also said that he believes Arizona State is a top 25 team, but the only ranking that matters is the final ranking.
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