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ASU vs. Cal: Staff Gameday Roundtable

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Our gameday staff sits and answers some key questions ahead of ASU's contest with Cal.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona State Sun Devils will take on the California Golden Bears tonight at 7 p.m. in Tempe. Below, our gameday staff answers a couple of questions ahead of the tilt.

Our Panel

Connor Pelton - Co-Managing Editor (@ConnorPelton28)

Kaelen Jones - Co-Managing Editor (@kaelenjones)

Zac Pacleb - Football Writer/Multimedia Reporter (@ZacPacleb)

Shane Theodore - Staff Writer (@shane_writes)

Max Madden - Staff Writer (@max_madden)

Q: ASU didn't exactly slow down Patrick Mahomes when it defeated Texas Tech. Do you see the Sun Devils managing to slow Davis Webb down this week? Why or why not?

Pelton: I think we see the secondary have more success against Webb than they did against Mahomes, but the term "slow down" is a strong one for this defense. Webb and his receivers should still have their way against this Arizona State defense.

Pacleb: Patrick Mahomes is a ridiculous talent, and he was able to extend plays in ways that Davis Webb can but won't. That said, big plays are going to happen in a different way, so I still expect California to rack up big-time yards on broken coverages.

Theodore: I think it depends on whether the Sun Devils can control the trenches from the start and force the Golden Bears into being aggressive early on. Mahomes filled the stat sheet against ASU, but did so throwing 53 passes with a pair of interceptions, and he was his team's highest rusher with 40 yards. Cal's Vic Enwere was special last week against Texas on the ground, and considering the nature of the Air Raid offense, Webb's 40 pass attempts on the night actually appear modest. if the Sun Devils can stifle Enwere early and pressure the Bears into pressing the ball upfield, I think it plays into the Sun Devils hands.

Madden: Nope. When facing teams with Air Raid offensive styles, the Sun Devils haven't held a passer to under 360 yards, and even allowed UTSA's Dalton Sturm to achieve an 80% completion percentage. Davis Webb could be one of the most complete quarterbacks in the Pac-12, and the secondary still has everything to prove.

Jones: Not sure if there's any way to slow Webb down, seeing as the ASU defense is content with rushing four, which means Webb could end up having all day to throw. ASU's offense needs to find a way to dominate time of possession in order to keep the ball out of his hands, though.

Q: Did the four-point win over UTSA change your expectations for this week's game? Why or why not?

Pelton: Nope. The UTSA game went pretty much as I expected for a short-week road game that was the team's first time playing away from home all season. Granted, they probably should have won by 10-14 points, but that could have been in play if not for some uncharacteristic muffed punts that led to Roadrunner touchdowns.

Pacleb: Not at all. ASU's performance in the second half of its first road game was what I expected for a full game, and its performances at home have been relatively solid. If anything, California's win over Texas gave me reason to expect a tighter matchup than I did heading into the game.

Theodore: I'm willing to write last week off as a hangover from a big win plus a little bit of underestimating an inferior opponent. With that said, we haven't seen this offense playing from behind yet, and we've yet to see how Manny Wilkins responds to some real adversity from a team that doesn't play C-USA ball. Todd Graham's teams over the past couple of years do have a precedent of experiencing total collapse games early in Pac-12 play, where problems that didn't manifest themselves against lesser opponents rear their heads once conference play comes around. There was the Stanford humbling early in 2013, UCLA in 2014 and USC last season. To be fair, this is a completely different ASU team personnel-wise than those that took the field in those seasons and Cal's defense isn't exactly the '85 Bears of college football. But the room for skepticism is there.

Madden: No. As with many teams in the country this year, Arizona State played down to the level of its competition. They were lucky to escape San Antonio with the win, but the Sun Devils will be forced to put up as many points as they did against Texas Tech, and I have bought into Chip Lindsey's offensive scheme.

Jones: I agree with Zac. My reasoning is mostly influenced by Cal's win over Texas, but if anything the results last week confirmed that there's going to be some sort of drama at the end.

Q: Are you confident ASU can win in a shootout again? Why or why not?

Pelton: I think Texas Tech is a more talented team than California, so I see no reason why the Sun Devils can't win another shootout. The trio of Manny Wilkins, Demario Richard, and Kalen Ballage should be able to tear apart the Golden Bear defense on the ground, and if the defense can come up with one or two big interceptions like they did against the Red Raiders, Todd Graham's team should be set.

Pacleb: Yes because of ASU's commitment to the ground game. No matter what the situation is, Chip Lindsey won't stray from the offense's strength, and eventually, those body blows turn into big plays. ASU's defense is more dynamic and talented than Cal's, so I still give the advantage to ASU in another shootout.

Theodore: Oh yeah, I'm confident they can win in a shootout. I think that Todd's actually grown to be more comfortable playing in high-scoring games. And why not, fireworks are fun. After sparkling down the stretch against UTSA, I think Manny's earned the trust of the coaching staff and his chemistry with N'Keal Harry is special. This offense isn't as good as it's going to be by the end of the season, but it's still good enough to hang with the Golden Bears in a game dominated by the offenses.

Madden: Yes. California has a great quarterback in Davis Webb and a special wide receiver in Chad Hansen, but the Sun Devils have more weapons on offense. Tim White is always the fastest player on the field, N'keal Harry is a matchup nightmare for any secondary, and Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage have shown to be an elite one-two punch out of the backfield. They'll put up points again.

Jones: I am. And it has just as much to do with the weapons available as it does the fact that Chip Lindsey is a genius. Have I mentioned that before? Seriously. He's a genius.

Q: How important is it for ASU to get a win to begin Pac-12 play?

Pelton: This is a big one. Not only does it give Arizona State a chance to start 4-0, but it would pretty much guarantee that the Sun Devils finish with at least six wins by the time bowl season rolls around. And with an angry USC team waiting at the Coliseum next week (and a game against a very solid UCLA team coming in two), a loss could mean an 0-3 start to conference play.

Pacleb: Only a little important. Just kidding. It's always important to start conference play off on a good note, especially with the LA schools coming up in the next two weeks.

Theodore: When Taylor Kelly and Mike Bercovici were playing for ASU, every season with them was either an exhilarating roller coaster ride or a disappointing spin with the tea cups. But I think that the fanbase saw what Graham was building and put up with the frustrating times, all for the future of the program, a future that became the present as soon as Wilkins was named the starting QB. I think the fanbase is excited about what Wilkins has done so far and how it'll translate into conference play, but there's always that uncertainty. A win to start Pac-12 play will send Sun Devil Nation into a frenzy and the Manny hype train will max out on passengers.

Madden: The Maroon and Gold will desperately need a win Saturday night in order to gain the confidence to take on JuJu Smith-Schuster and the extremely talented USC Trojans next week. The schedule doesn't get any easier, as Josh Rosen and the UCLA Bruins come to town just a week later. The Sun Devils must start out this tough three game stretch with a win against Cal.

Jones: Kinda big, I'd say. For ASU, starting out Pac-12 play at least 2-1 is important for setting the tone ahead of facing gauntlet of the the conference. Assuming the team drops one against either USC or UCLA, they've gotta beat Cal to give themselves room for error.

Over/Under


Pelton Pacleb Theodore Madden Jones
450 passing yards for Cal Over Over Under Over Over
2.5 sacks for ASU Under Over Under Under Over


True/False


Pelton Pacleb Theodore Madden Jones
Zane Gonzalez makes a 50-yd FG True True True False False
Lil B's blessing on Cal matters False I wrote about it so... True True (The Based God is all that matters) True False

Final Score

Pelton Pacleb Theodore Madden Jones
Final Score 48-45, ASU 49-38, ASU 56-52, ASU 31-28, ASU 45-42, ASU