No. 20 Wisconsin (2-0, 0-0 in Big Ten) at Arizona State (1-0, 0-0 in Pac-12)
Kickoff: 7:30 P.M. MST/ 10:30 P.M. EST
Location: Sun Devil Stadium
Point Spread: Arizona State (-5.5)
TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch, Brian Griese, Tom Luginbill)
Radio: 92.3 KTAR FM (Tim Healey, Jeff Van Raaphorst, Doug Franz)
Weather Forecast: 97 degrees with 23 percent humidity at kickoff
Series History: Arizona State is 2-1 against Wisconsin. The last matchup between these schools came at Camp Randall in 2010 as Wisconsin defeated Arizona State by a final of 20-19.
Wisconsin's Season to Date: The Badgers enter Saturday night's game with a 2-0 record and the No. 20 ranking in the latest AP Poll. Wisconsin defeated the University of Massachusetts 45-0 in week one of the regular season and took down Tennessee Tech 48-0 last weekend. Wisconsin has three running backs who have surpassed the 100-yard mark in both of their games and all three have at least 250 yards rushing thus far. Sophomore quarterback Joel Stave leads the run-first offense and inside linebacker Chris Borland is a forced to be reckoned with on defense.
ASU on Offense: Quarterback Taylor Kelly completed 23 of 31 passes for 300 yards and five touchdowns against Sacramento State last Thursday. In his last four games, Kelly has thrown for 13 touchdowns and no interceptions and the Sun Devils are 4-0.
Marion Grice, D.J. Foster and Deantre Lewis will share carries out of the backfield with Grice taking the lion's share. The Sun Devils hope to establish the run early and march their way down the field on the ground. Ball security is at a premium this week and if one of the backs fumbles, expect the other two to handle the rushing duties.
Chris Coyle and De'Marieya Nelson looked all parts of a dynamic combination against Sacramento State. The pair can line up in the slot, motion through the backfield, and catch Wisconsin off-guard in the play-action game. Nelson even took handoffs in a goal line situation against Sacramento State.
Jaelen Strong is the Sun Devils' No. 1 option at wide receiver after tallying six receptions and a touchdown last week. Strong is fast, athletic, and a solid route-runner who should become the first receiver to exploit the Badger secondary this season. Kevin Ozier lines up opposite Strong and sophomore Rick Smith mixes in as a dangerous weapon at the slot receiver spot. D.J. Foster will also line up in the slot as well.
The Badgers run a 3-4 scheme which forces the Sun Devil offensive line to emphasize their communication. Stunts and backer blitzes are the norm so center Kody Koebensky needs to have an excellent game to give this offense a chance to move the football.
WR Kevin Ozier vs. CB Sojourn Shelton: The Badgers are excited about their true freshman cornerback. He'll face a tough test against Ozier who has a knack for making plays with a disciplined approach to his routes. Wisconsin knows Jaelen Strong is the primary threat, so they'll match Shelton up on Ozier to ease the learning curve. Ozier hopes to establish chemistry with Kelly from the get-go to help open up the playbook for offensive coordinator Mike Norvell. If the Sun Devils' can use Ozier well, their other options should have no problem creating big plays.
C Kody Koebensky vs. NT Beau Allen: Allen can create all sorts of problems in the trenches. The 3-4 scheme is sometimes more difficult for a center because a nose tackle is lined up directly ahead of him. This means Koebensky has to ensure his shotgun snaps are crisp and his pad level is low out of his stance. Koebensky needs to be able to handle Allen on his own so the rest of the offensive line can pick up blitzing linebackers and rush ends.
ASU on Defense: The Sun Devils are tasked with stopping an opponent that has put up 45 and 48 points in its two games. Last season, Arizona State struggled mightily against the run. This year, their first true test comes against one of the best running teams in the country.
The trio of James White, Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement is electric and will force the Sun Devil front seven to be on top of its game. Will Sutton and Jaxon Hood must drive off of the snap and penetrate into the backfield. Carl Bradford and Gannon Conway need to take on blocks at the line of scrimmage and shed offensive linemen to pursue the football.
Wisconsin's offense revolves around pulling guards, fullbacks and tight ends executing their blocks in space. The Sun Devil linebacking corps has to be disciplined and focused in tackling. Chris Young cannot bite play-action fakes and Steffon Martin and Anthony Jones have to fill running lanes before the blockers arrive. The key for Arizona State is avoiding double teams in the run game and winning the battle at the line of scrimmage by pushing linemen backward.
With so much focus on stopping the run, the Sun Devil secondary will employ a lot of man coverages. Robert Nelson and Osahon Irabor are more than capable, it's just a matter of reading the play correctly. Alden Darby and Laiu Moekiola will be called upon in run support, but they can't let anyone get behind them in the passing game.
WR James Abbrederis vs. ASU Corners: The Sun Devils won't isolate Nelson or Irabor on the Badgers' best receiver. Both of the corners know that Abbrederis is the overwhelming favorite of quarterback Joel Stave so don't expect either of them to fall asleep in coverage with Abbrederis coming their way. Neutralizing Abbrederis neutralizes the Badgers passing game. Unfortunately for Arizona State, that's easier said than done.
Wisconsin's Tackles vs. Gannon Conway: The 6-foot-5 senior replaced Davon Coleman in the starting lineup because of his run-stopping abilities. Now's the time to prove that he earned his spot. Conway is built to withstand opposing linemen and his performance might have more of an impact on the outcome than Will Sutton's. The Badgers will run the ball in his direction and it's up to Conway to make a stand.
The Final Breakdown: Arizona State is favored by five and a half points which makes this a tossup game in Vegas. The point spread takes into account the home field advantage and the atmosphere will be wild. Wisconsin has played in the Big House and they know what it's like to face Ohio State on the road too. That being said, the Badgers still traveled through two time zones to get to Tempe and that's not easy. Arizona State simply has more offensive weapons and more balance. If the defense holds up against the run and creates a few turnovers, this is the Sun Devils' game for the taking.
Prediction: ASU wins 34-28