The Sun Devil football season opens with its traditional cupcake game. Arizona State will get a tune-up for the season when the Sacramento State Hornets come to visit Tempe on September 5th. The Sun Devils have won their last three season openers by a combined score of 165-29.
However, on September 14th, the Sun Devils begin one of the most difficult stretches in college football. That four-game slate beings with Big Ten Champion Wisconsin. The Badgers come to Tempe as part of the a home-and-home series with the Sun Devils.
Previous Meeting - September 18th, 2010 (Wisconsin Wins 20-19)
Arizona State's painful loss agains Wisconsin was just one of many close losses the Sun Devils had in the 2010 season. Arizona State lost four games by four or less points that season including a crushing one-point loss to Wisconsin on the road the third week of the year.
An Omar Bolden 97-yard kickoff return touchdown gave Arizona State a 7-3 lead in the first quarter, however the Sun Devils trailed 13-10 at halftime.
Fans will remember that Kyle Middlebrooks kickoff return that was returned to the Wisconsin one-yard line as time expired in the first half.
With ASU trailing 13-20 in the final quarter, Cameron Marshall scored on a two-yard touchdown run to pull ASU within one. However, Thomas Weber's extra point was blocked, keeping the Sun Devils from pulling even with the Badgers. Arizona State fell to Wisconsin at Camp Randall and went on to lose its next three games.
Why is it important?
This is Arizona State's first real test of the 2013 season. Unlike last season, we will know how good this Arizona State team is after the first five weeks of the year.
Hopefully the Sun Devils can get the kinks out against Sac State and play a clean contest against Wisconsin.
The past three season, Arizona State has had one game that they have lost and it has caused a free fall. In 2010, it was Wisconsin, after that loss, the Sun Devils lost three straight and four of their next five.
In 2011, it was UCLA, after that loss, Arizona State went on to lose the next four games to end the season. And last season, it was Oregon, after that game the Sun Devils lost its next three games. Arizona State does not want Wisconsin to be that game this season.
There is a strong likelihood that ASU will play four straight games on national television starting with the Badgers. The Sun Devils may have more national exposure this year than in a long time and it would be a shame for ASU to waste it.
How winnable is the game?
Yes Wisconsin has been to three consecutive Rose Bowls, however head coach Brett Bielema is now at Arkansas and leading rusher Montee Ball is now in the NFL. Gary Anderson was hired from Utah State and the program is in a period of transition.
The Badgers open the season against UMass and Tennessee Tech before coming to Tempe. ASU will be their first road game and their first true test of the season.
Wisconsin lost its starting left tackle and running back and has some uncertainties at quarterback. The defense graduated three starters from its secondary and one player from its linebacking corps. Overall the Badgers return a good amount of talent.
The game may come down to how disruptive the Sun Devil defensive line can be and how ASU stops the run. Whoever the starting quarterback is, this will be their first true road test of the season.
The Sun Devils will get a fight from a well-coached, disciplined Wisconsin team. However, the Sun Devils on paper are more talented that the Badgers and the home-field advantage will be a major advantage for ASU.