We are hours away from the Sun Devils' first Pac-12 road game to the North division, a dark and stormy night in Seattle. It also marks the return of Taylor Kelly, who is expected to start tonight. We touch on Kelly, the weather and a few others in our gameday roundtable.
Justin Emerson: Managing Editor (@J15Emerson)
Nick Krueger: Managing Editor (@NickPKrueger)
Jason Galvin: Columnist (@Jason_Galvin)
Ryan Bafaloukos: Staff writer (@RyanBafo)
Shane Theodore: Staff writer (@shane_writes)
Connor Pelton: Staff writer (@ConnorPelton28)
Todd Graham said Kelly will start, but Mike Bercovici will play about 10 snaps. Do you like or dislike this strategy?
Emerson: It doesn't make sense to me. If Kelly is absolutely ready to play, he should play every down. If he's not, then Bercovici should play every down. The Sun Devils can win with either one, but it should be only one.
Krueger: I'm not a big fan of putting incredibly subjective percentages on players to measure their health. If Kelly feels ready to play and start, then that should be the case. As Graham said this week, Kelly gives this team the best chance to win. The read-option hardly exists when Mike Bercovici is in the game. The entire playbook gets very one-dimensional and although the Sun Devils may win some games that way, it's no way to win a Pac-12 title. To answer the question though, I like this strategy, Bercovici does have a more capable arm as a passer and their are some third and long situations or otherwise where he is probably better suited.
Galvin: This is a terrible idea. I also think Graham is bluffing, much like last week. By this point we should all know that Graham doesn't kiss and tell. I expect Kelly to take every snap, unless he is really struggling.
Bafaloukos: There is an old saying in football that if you have two quarterbacks, you have zero quarterbacks. The fact is every poor throw Taylor Kelly makes, the fans are going to clamor for Mike Bercovici. That is unavoidable, however playing Berovici will not help this. What happens if Berocvici throws a 70-yard touchdown pass? Does he sit the rest of the half? I just don't really understand the strategy behind Berco playing if Kelly is fully healthy. But then again, I don't get paid seven figures to coach college football.
Theodore: I'm okay with Bercovici playing ten snaps in garbage time of a blowout game, but as long as the game is competitive I see no point in playing anyone but Kelly. All it does it allow for controversy to brew, and that's the last thing a team in the thick of the Pac-12 South race needs.
Pelton: Love it. The saying that if you have two quarterbacks, you really don't have any does not apply here. Coach Graham really does have two, each with unique strengths, and if the situation calls for it I have no problem with either of them in the game.
In one sentence, the Sun Devils will win if ________
Emerson: They go out and play their game like the better team that they are.
Krueger: They lead at halftime and rush for over 150 yards on the ground.
Galvin: The defense plays like it did against Stanford again.
Bafaloukos: They commit zero turnovers and D.J. Foster tallies over 100 yards on the ground.
Theodore: Taylor Kelly performs like we've grown to expect from him.
Pelton: They score more points than Washington.
Was last week's defensive showing a flash in the pan or a sign of a growing unit?
Emerson: This is the same defense that gave up 23 to New Mexico and 24 to Colorado. Granted, those were on the road early in the season, and they aren't gaudy point totals, but the defense was not great early in the season. They've grown for sure, but I think they are to the point that they are somewhere in between where they were at the beginning of the season and last week.
Krueger: It's a growing, but also evolving unit based on which team the Sun Devils play. The way Arizona State plays against teams like Washington and Stanford are much different then how they play against other teams. They can afford to keep Jaxon Hood and Mo Latu out there because neither of these teams moves the ball quickly on offense. The real test I think will come when they play another team similar to themselves offensively. That's when the more inexperienced players like Tashon Smallwood will have to be used and where the Sun Devils could run into trouble.
Galvin: 50-50. The unit is going to get better. Remember, it's a young defense, but it's not void of talent. That youth will show itself again at some point, but great performances like last week are also always possible.
Bafaloukos: I think it is a little bit of both. I think people need to realize that Stanford is just not the team they have been the past few years on offense. The Cardinal will likely finish 8-4 or 7-5 so the victory may not look as sweet come December. We saw breakout games from Kweishi Brown and Antonio Longino and I thought Damarious Randall played his best game as a Sun Devil last week. This defense is improving but there is still a long ways to go and I'd bet Todd Graham would say the same thing if you asked him.
Theodore: It could be both. The defense is definitely striving in the right direction and they put together a complete performance against a struggling Stanford offense, but the growing process isn't done. The unit is trending upwards, but hiccups are still to be expected.
Pelton: The defense is definitely growing, but we really won't know just how much they have improved until after the Utah game. Stanford and Washington do not exactly provide great case studies with the offenses they provide.
How much do you think external factors, noise and weather, will play into the outcome?
Emerson: This is a disciplined team, and I don't really expect an issue at all. The noise won't be a problem, but the weather could be. If it's raining, throwing the ball gets tougher, and running the ball gets more crucial. Hi D.J.
Krueger: I think teams are well prepared for noise every week, hand signals can always be used, but it's not every day a team like the Sun Devils play in conditions like these on a cold and rainy Saturday night in Washington. Keep the footballs as dry as you can and that's about as much as Arizona State can do. The Sun Devils can't forego their game plan because of rain, it's probably the last thing on their mind once the game starts. In fact, I'm sure the players will embrace it some just because it's real "football weather." Graham already stresses ball security so if Arizona State comes in with a similar mindset that turning the ball over is unacceptable, they'll be fine in spite of the weather.
Galvin: I'm not sure external factors bother this team. Frankly, I think it's all overrated anyways. Washington isn't Autzen, and if you can go into USC and win, then going to Washington shouldn't be bad.
Bafaloukos: I think the wetness may play a factor in the passing game, just because of the unfamiliarity the Sun Devils will be dealing with. Not only does Taylor Kelly have to play a very good defense, he has to play it on the road in wet conditions coming off a foot injury. I don't see noise playing a factor, the Sun Devils are an experienced road team, especially on offense.
Theodore: Coach Graham said it won't have any impact on the game, and I have no reason to disagree with him. Both teams deal with noise, both teams deal with weather. If there are 11 players on each side of the ball, the team that wins will have had to earn it. If Washington wins in the rain, they would've won in the sunshine. Same goes for Arizona State.
Pelton: I've been going to games at Husky Stadium since I was eight, and at the right moments it is as loud as any stadium in the country. With that being said, this team has already gone to the Coliseum and escaped with a win, so I don't know if anything intimidates them. There will be false starts, and probably a good number considering the offensive line has problems communicating in a silent Sun Devil Stadium. But it should not be too much of a problem. Same goes for the rain in the forecast.
Give me your final score and one other prediction about the game.
Emerson: Arizona State 42, Washington 32. Kelly and Foster combine to rush for 150 yards.
Krueger: Arizona State 35, Washington 24. The Sun Devils have at least one defensive touchdown via interception or fumble return.
Galvin: Arizona State 34, Washington 27. D.J. Foster runs for 150 yards.
Bafaloukos: Arizona State 31, Washington 23, and Taylor Kelly throws for three touchdown passes.
Theodore: Arizona State 48, Washington 27. The defense allows some big plays to Washington, but the steady hand of Kelly guides the Sun Devils to a drama-free win. With the return of Kelly and his ability to beat defenses on the ground, holes open up for D.J. Foster and he runs for over 100 yards for the first time since Kelly's injury.
Pelton: Arizona State 31, Washington 17. Taylor Kelly returns a punt for a touchdown. Todd Graham uses six timeouts in the first quarter.