Halloween is here, and to get in the spirit I put together a list of the top three things that frighten me about the final month of football season.
1. The upcoming two-game homestand
While UCLA, USC, and Stanford were all ranked at the time Arizona State faced them, make no mistake, the next two games against Utah and Notre Dame will be the toughest of the season so far. First up, of course, are the Utes, who own a 3-0 record on the road this year. They are fresh off a drama-filled victory against USC and are ranked No. 17 in the first College Football Playoff poll.
Where Kyle Wittingham's team gets it done is on the defensive side of the ball. Led by defensive end Nate Orchard, the Utes are one of the best teams in the country in getting pressure on the quarterback. Orchard has 11 sacks thus far, while teammate Hunter Dimick has seven. Notre Dame, which will be in town on Nov. 8, is currently ranked No. 10 and has wins over Stanford and North Carolina. The Fighting Irish lost at Florida State, 21-17, a couple weeks back.
2. Timeout Usage
While this hasn't hurt the team yet, it just seems like the cavalier way in which head coach Todd Graham uses his timeouts will come back to bite Arizona State sometime before the end of the year. The whole issue would have gotten much more attention if not for a certain "Jael Mary" at USC, since the reason the Sun Devils were not left with more time on their final drive was because Graham ran out of timeouts with more than 17 minutes remaining.
I understand that he likes to give his defense a chance to regroup and rest, and I don't mind that different way of thinking. In 2013, they took 32 timeouts while on defense and ended up getting the ball back 12 times shortly thereafter. That's a respectable percentage. But sometimes in the course of a close game you have to realize there will be a need for a timeout or two late in the fourth quarter.
3. Spooky Games
Two games in the middle of November frighten me, and it's because I feel they could be overlooked. Arizona State can overmatch both Oregon State and Washington State at nearly every position, but look, this is the Pac-12. The Cougars have already beaten Utah (on the road), and the air raid offense is a scary sight when operating at full capacity.
Meanwhile, the Sun Devils have not won in Corvallis since 2005. And while quarterback Sean Mannion is struggling right now, he was one of the top pocket passers in the country last year and I wouldn't be surprised if he got back on track over the next couple weeks. Bottom line, the maroon and gold should win both of these games, but they will have a huge target on their backs, especially if they are still in the hunt for a conference title. And of course, nothing is a given out in the Pac-12.