Arizona State is No. 6 in the country, just two spots out of the College Football Playoff which would place them in the Rose or Sugar Bowl for a chance at a National Championship. That's a huge prize at the end of the road still in sight for the Sun Devils, which are currently content to put just one foot in front of the other.
"It's all focused on the mission at hand and that's beating Oregon State, a team that is very tough, very physical, very well coached team," Todd Graham said Thursday after practice.
What makes OSU a more difficult team to prepare for, according to Graham, are some the trickier schemes they run which will force Arizona State to be more sound fundamentally. It's a similar strategy in preparation which won them games at Washington and at home against Stanford. They will definitely get the Beavers best game given the Sun Devils standing in the rankings. According to Graham, one big key is making sure OSU works and has to use skill to score.
"Our preparation has been to make sure we're sound on the Y delays, the tight end delays, the tight end throwbacks, the tight end screens, the tailback screens, the tailback throwbacks, making sure we're not giving up any cheap ones," Graham said.
Graham added it provides a unique challenge for the Sun Devils defense because Sean Mannion can spread the ball around and take full advantage of his weapons on offense. He praised Mannion's ability to throw very accurate passes when needed. That accuracy has paid off for players like tight end Connor Hamlett, who has 27 catches for 306 yards and two touchdowns as a tight end. OSU is one of the few teams in the Pac-12 who are consistently using a tight end in the receiving game.
"They're going to have good answers to what we're doing with the tight end screens, running back screens," Graham said. "Their hot reads, they've got good speed at the receiver position and they know how to utilize their tight ends, we haven't played anybody like that."
- Ezekiel Bishop is still in a green jersey while Jaxon Hood remains absent from practice
- Jordan Simone shed his gold "limited contact" jersey, but Laiu Moeakiola remained in gold.
- The Sun Devils wore their white helmets with the big maroon pitchfork to practice this morning, Arizona State will wear their "stormtrooper" all white uniforms Saturday in Corvallis.