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ASU vs. Texas Tech: Staff Gameday Roundtable

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Find out how our staff sees the game against the Red Raiders going for Arizona State.

John Weast/Getty Images

Our Panel:

Connor Pelton - Co-Managing Editor (@ConnorPelton28)

Ryan Bafaloukos - Co-Managing Editor (@RyanBafo)

Kaelen Jones - Football Writer (@kaelenjones)

Miles Todd - Multimedia Reporter (@5280ft_s)

Blane Ferguson - Staff Writer (@BlaneFerguson)

Short Answer

Q: How big of a game is this for Arizona State in the grand scheme of the season?

Kaelen: Kind of big. There's an immediate sense of importance on this game because of the perceived slow start against Northern Arizona, so firing on all cylinders—on both sides of the ball—is important for the fan base to see especially. In the grand scheme? A loss here puts them in a scenario where they can start the year off 1-4…or worse. Momentum is real.

Miles: It’s big but not too big. It is only big because we will see how ASU plays against a formidable opponent. With all due respect to the Lumberjacks, Texas Tech is a better team and will really test ASU’s defense. The reason it’s not too big is because it is still not conference play. Once conference play starts, everything will change and we’ll see where the Sun Devils can end up in the Pac-12.

Blane: It's a pretty big game because this could either fuel or silence doubts that surfaced after the Northern Arizona game. Despite NAU being one of the better FCS schools in the country, Texas Tech is the first real test of the season for Arizona State. There are few teams in the conference or country that can challenge a secondary better than the Red Raiders, so we are going to get a good look at how ASU's defensive backs handle a high-level quarterback.

On the flip side, I think we are going to get to see Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage get asked to carry the ball a significant amount more than they were asked to against NAU. The Red Raider defense hasn't been known to be the best at stopping the run in the recent past, so we'll also get a chance to see just how potent the Sun Devil running attack is.

Ryan: I said in the preseason media roundtable that this game would make or break the ASU season. Seeing a lot of fan reaction on social media last week, I think if the Sun Devils this game - particularly if it's a blow out - fans will really start to lose interest in this team.

In the grand scheme of the Pac-12, this game might not mean much, but it represents a chance to show that the maroon and gold have made strides, especially on defense. I think this is a huge game for the Sun Devils.

Connor: This is a good game for a team like Arizona State. A win would likely assure the Sun Devils of a perfect record in non-conference play, while a loss could be dismissed as a "growing experience" in a game that won't count towards the Pac-12 title race. So all in all, not a huge game unless you're expecting this team to go 11-1 or 12-0 and compete for a national championship.

Q: How did the Northern Arizona game change your expectations for Arizona State, if it all?

Kaelen: Eh, it surprised me from a schematic standpoint a little defensively. Arizona State looked a lot more conservative, but it was against NAU. If anything, it's crushed the certainty of them winning seven games; I'm not sure what we have with this team moving forward.

Miles: Not much changed for me. I was expecting to see a lot of carries for the running backs and the quarterback and that's exactly what was seen. Although I was somewhat impressed with ASU’s secondary, I also didn’t have high expectations for them to begin with. The real test comes against this Texas Tech offense.

Blane: It's hard to say really because I don't think many Sun Devil fans had lofty expectations from the team this season. That being said, I would say the Northern Arizona game pretty much just maintained my expectations. 7-5 still doesn't seem out of the question with the hope of key players being back on the field and Manny Wilkins improving with more game experience. It's hard to really base new expectations off the opener, but I think the game against Texas Tech will show us what kind of season this will be.

Ryan: I think the performance in the first half should be worrisome, but the Sun Devils did win by 31 points, allowing just 13 points in the process. I would have liked to see more from Manny Wilkins, particularly in the intermediate passing game, and I think the pass rush will continue to be an issue this season.

However, I said before the season started the Sun Devils would finish 6-6 and I am not ready to move on from that number. But if the same issues that plagued the team last year plague them this year, I think that says more about the program than their final regular season record.

Connor: No change for me. Arizona State didn't show much of anything schematically on offense or defense, so I am waiting to reserve judgement until after the Texas Tech (and maybe even UTSA) game. After all, the most improvement in a football season typically comes between weeks one and two anyway.

Q: Which position group needs to improve the most after week one?

Kaelen: The EDGE players (DEVIL, DE, other OLBs). The interior defensive line held its end of the bargain last week. If the EDGE guys show up this week, Arizona State's defense gets exciting.

Miles: I will say the secondary just because of the matchup ahead. They were fine against Northern Arizona but are really going to have to step it up against this team.

Blane: I would say the secondary, but I have a feeling that's an obvious answer. Instead, I'll go with the quarterback, Manny Wilkins. I loved what I saw out of Wilkins on the first drive against Northern Arizona. His ability to hurt defenses using his mobility fits into the run-pass option that Todd Graham loves. That being said, the accuracy on medium-to-deep passes, his ability to go through progressions, and pocket awareness has to improve if ASU wants to surpass any expectations in 2016.

Wilkins has had one career start, so I don't expect these improvements to happen immediately. I think the hope is that Wilkins shows subtle improvements throughout the season and also, stop hurtling people. Yes, it looked awesome, but staying healthy also looks awesome.

Ryan: It has to be the secondary. Not that they played poorly against NAU, but they will be challenged on Saturday. The three Air Raid quarterbacks that Arizona State faced last season combined to throw for 1,571 yards and 15 touchdowns. You can make a case that Patrick Mahomes is more talented than all of them besides Jared Goff.

Hopefully getting Moeakiola back will help the Sun Devil defense, but they may not face a quarterback all season better than Mahomes.

Connor: I'll side with Ryan, Miles, (and Blane, kind of). The secondary is the easy answer, but there's just no way Arizona State wins this game without a decent performance out of them.

One Word/Phrase Answers

Pelton Bafaloukos Jones Todd Ferguson
Over/Under 1 ball thrown by Manny Wilkins on ASU's first possession? Push Over Over Push Push
Over/Under 15 sideline shots of Kliff Kingsbury on the FS1 telecast? Over Under Over (sex sells) Over Over
Which quarterback records more total touchdowns? (Wilkins/Mahomes) Mahomes Mahomes Mahomes Mahomes Mahomes
Final Score? 38-37, ASU 38-24, TTU 45-43, TTU 34-24, TTU 45-27, TTU