Ryan Bafaloukos - Co-Managing Editor | @RyanBafo
Josh Nacion - Co-Managing Editor | @Josh_Nacion
Kaelen Jones - Staff Writer | @kaelenjones
Kristina Vicario - Staff Writer | @KristinaV_18
Chris Schubert - Staff Writer | @ChrisRSchubert
Connor Pelton - Staff Writer | @ConnorPelton28
Q: The Sun Devils (by preseason expectations) have had two underwhelming performances this season, what concerns you most after two games of the season?
Nacion: The offense still doesn't have an identity. ASU still has talent, there are several solid veterans (Mike Bercovici, DJ Foster, Christian Westerman and Devin Lucien) leading the way and the offensive line is bigger than ever, but the offense is still getting stalled every night. The Sun Devils never really had this kind of problem in the past three years, as their offense usually bailed out the defense whenever it gave up big plays. This is certainly a problem with USC's defense looming next week.
Jones: The lack of offensive identity. Jaelen Strong, Jamil Douglas and Taylor Kelly's absences have been very noticeable on the field, thus far. The tackle spots have been a question mark, neither D.J. Foster nor Demario Richard have truly established themselves as a big time playmaker yet, and Mike Bercovici has, at times, looked out of place trying to operate Mike Norvell's multiple-look offense. Entering this week, the lack of continuity and explosiveness offensively is very concerning.
Pelton: The lack of a go-to receiver has been pretty concerning thus far. The offense is clearly lacking the ability to hit on the occasional home run ball, and that needs to be remedied before next week's Pac-12 opener against USC.
Schubert: A lack of confidence. This is a team with high expectations and they are only going to be able to succeed if they have confidence. Tonight's game is key towards building that confidence for Pac-12 play.
Vicario: I have two answers that kind of go hand in hand here. 1.) Lack of pass protection for Mike Bercovici and 2.) the fact that the Sun Devils have yet to complete a pass for over 40 yards. This is something that Pac-12 teams will walk all over as the Sun Devils move into conference play next weekend against USC. Put plain and simple: ASU just won't win games if they can't keep the opponent on its toes with an explosive play sprinkled in here and there that will keep the chains moving.
Bafaloukos: I think if you combine Kristina's answers you get: lack of explosive plays. The Sun Devils have completed just two passes for more than 30 yards. Part of that has to do with poor pass protection and part of that has to do with receivers not creating space. Todd Graham said it best on Monday when he said it is difficult to go 13-play scoring drives on good teams multiple times a game.
Q: Four Sun Devils ('Gump' Hayes, Armand Perry, William McGehee and Ami Latu) left Saturday's game against Cal Poly and did not return. Who among those four would be the biggest loss for ASU if they have to miss extended time?
Nacion: Viliami Latu. He's been an anchor on the defensive line. The Sun Devils will certainly miss his presence if he has to miss Friday's game against New Mexico's triple-option.
Jones: Hayes, Perry, and even the senior McGehee need to see the field in order to get live reps, but it has to be Latu. He is a crucial part of the defensive line rotation and what they are able to schematically.
Pelton: I'll take Hayes. He hasn't exactly had the greatest of starts this season, but he is one of those playmakers that is a big time threat whenever the ball comes to him. Like I said before, this team needs more of that.
Schubert: Probably 'Gump' Hayes. With Kalen Ballage out, there needs to be somebody to help Demario Richard carry the backfield. Losing two backup running backs can really hurt the Sun Devil offense.
Vicario: This is a big tossup between Latu and Perry, but I think based on the production thus far I have to go with Perry. While Latu did record a sack and two TFL's for a combined 12 yards against A&M, Perry led the team with 11 tackles that same game and tacked on four more against Cal Poly. It's still unsure who, if both return soon, will have a bigger impact in the long run for ASU this year, but currently a safety like Perry is someone I would be more apprehensive to have out for extended time due to the vertical passing game most of these Pac-12 teams have incorporated into their game plan. ASU needs someone like Perry to protect the house.
Bafaloukos: I thought about choosing Perry, but I am going to go with Hayes just because of what happens to the offense. With Hayes and Ballage out, Foster moves into more of a running back role and that takes explosiveness away from the passing game.
Q: Through two games, which player has surprised you the most and which player has disappointed you the most?
Nacion: The obvious surprise is Tim White. After being injured most of all camp, he immediately became ASU's best receiver the moment he stepped on the field this week and now gives the Sun Devils another dimension on offense.
For the most disappointment, I would have to go with Bercovici. He hasn't been as savvy as he was last year when he filled in for Taylor Kelly, and the quarterback and the offensive coordinator have to take the most blame when the offense gets stagnant.
Jones: Surprised me: Christian Sam. He's been a monster through two games, and has (in my opinion) emerged as the team's most clinical pass-rusher to this point. Disappointed me: Hayes. He's yet to make any true impact so far, and as of now is at most a change-of-pace back.
Pelton: I've been most surprised by Demario Richard thus far. I thought he would be a serviceable back coming into the season, but to be averaging more than 100 yards per game has surpassed my expectations. As far as disappointments go, I wouldn't quite put Mike Bercovici in that category yet, but improvements definitely need to be made for this team to contend in the Pac-12.
Schubert: The person that surprised and disappointed me the most is the same person, Mike Bercovici. He hasn't looked like the same quarterback that we saw at the end of last season. He hasn't looked like a quarterback that some consider the best in the Pac-12. But two games don't make a season.
Vicario: Christian Sam and ‘Gump' Hayes, respectively. I would say Sam in the sense that it surprised me how much potential he has to be one of ASU's most explosive pass rushers given he's a sophomore who only finished with 16 tackles in his freshman campaign. Sam was the reason for ASU's first touchdown for the season, forcing a fumble that the Sun Devils were able to capitalize on.
Hayes I think a lot of people were expecting more out of right out of the gate, especially in his punt return game, but again with all the positional movement and dual roles he's a player who I believe is still just getting his footing but can utilize that speed down the road if he can start to find the holes in his running game.
Bafaloukos: My most surprising player so far has been Armand Perry. We all knew about Jordan Simone, Llyod Carrington and Kweishi Brown, but so far it has been Perry who has stood out in the secondary. My biggest disappointment so far has been Hayes. He just hasn't shown the explosiveness that we all were exception at the start of the season. It's only been two games and there is still plenty of time for him to make an impact, but a hamstring injury is not what the newcomer needed.
Q. Give me your final score and one additional prediction about the game.
Nacion: 45-21 ASU. Both sides of the ball will struggle for ASU but the Sun Devils will pull away sooner than they did last week against Cal Poly.
Jones: Bercovici throws for over 200 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. ASU 45, New Mexico 24.
Pelton: Arizona State - 38, New Mexico - 17. Bercovici throws for three touchdowns and runs for one more.
Schubert: ASU 45, New Mexico 17. The Sun Devils score three touchdowns through defense/special teams.
Vicario: I'm gun shy this week after all the predictions for a Cal-Poly thrashing that never happened last week. But, I still think Cal Poly is a better team than New Mexico is and I see ASU doing some damage in this one with a 41-21 beatdown punctuated by 250+ rushing yards for D.J. Foster that will have people vehemently calling for his return to the position for the rest of the season.
Bafaloukos: I think ASU wins 42-13 and I say ASU is leading 28-0 at halftime.