Todd Graham: 'These guys expect to win'

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State has struggled against ranked opponents in recent years, but Todd Graham says that this year's team has different mindset.

The hype surrounding the Wisconsin offense has built considerably over the last two weeks. Arizona State knows it will face a prolific rushing attack and Todd Graham did not mince his words when he described the Badgers' ground game.

"We're not going to play against a team that runs the ball better than these guys do," Graham said.

Wisconsin has three running backs that have hit the 250-yard mark already this season, including the workhorse of the backfield James White. Each back possesses game-breaking speed, but the Badgers aren't afraid to keep plays between the tackles because of a mammoth offensive line.

All five starting linemen tip the needle on the scales past the 300-pound point and they sell play-action fakes like they have a chance of doing it on Sundays.

"Obviously, that's a challenge, and what they do is challenge," Graham said. "How they block, the way they go about executing, they've been on of the most productive offenses in the country."

The one knock on the Badger linemen is that their size sometimes prevents them from handling quicker, more athletic defensive linemen. Against Will Sutton and Carl Bradford, sometimes could turn into all the time. The dynamic duo is at their best against top-notch competition and the Badgers are right up there in terms of offensive prowess.

Graham continually heaps praise on his defensive linemen, and they're hoping to keep the coach's faith with a dominant effort on Saturday.

"For us, it's still about us. It's still about us executing," Graham said. "We've got some pretty good players so I'm excited to see our guys match up against one of the best teams in the country."

Stopping the run is going to take all 11 men on defense, so Graham has put even more of an emphasis on playing smart football this week. If one defensive back bites on a play-action fake or one linebacker sits in his stance too long, it could be the different between a tackle for loss and a touchdown.

With all of the fanfare surrounding the Badger ground game, the Sun Devils know they are facing a staunch test right off the bat. But Arizona State also exudes a quiet confidence. The players respect their opponent, but believe that they deserve the recognition as well. Now, it's time to go and earn it.

"This year, everybody out here believes we can win, and we got a lot of guys that expect to win," Graham said. "This is the game where we're going to see exactly where we're at so I'm excited to see what happens."

Over the past five years, the Sun Devils have struggled to maintain their composure against ranked opponents in critical matchups. Arizona State's visit to Camp Randall in 2010 is a prime example, as a Rose Bowl-bound Badgers team barely snuck past an unranked Sun Devil squad.

The Sun Devils have the opportunity to showcase their program on a national stage, against one of the nation's premier opponents. Graham is usually descriptive, but when asked about the significance of a win on Saturday night, he turned to a few simple words.

"This would be a big step forward for us."

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