Three weeks ago, the Arizona State (2-0) and BYU (2-0) matchup did not have as much buzz as it does today. Now, BYU has dominated the Pac-12 more so than any other team that is actually in the conference, and the clash in Provo has a much larger spotlight.
This game will have national implications. Granted we are only three weeks into the season, but USC’s loss to Stanford last week puts more pressure on ASU to compete for the Pac-12 South. BYU proved it is capable of cleaning up on Power-Five opponents, and they are now nationally ranked (23).
Regardless of the outcome, Saturday night’s game will tell us all we need to know about how the Sun Devils match up against the rest of the nation.
So far, the Cougars have not missed a beat following an 11-1 season, taking care of business against Arizona and Utah already in 2021. In the absence of NFL draft pick Zach Wilson, quarterback Jaren Hall stepped on to the scene beautifully, throwing for 347 yards and five touchdowns in the first two games.
We know the strength of the ASU running game, and we also know the passing attack will have to be more fluid to compete with nationally ranked teams. What we do not know is how the front seven on defense will perform against a strong offensive line. So far, BYU is rushing for 193 yards per game, including 80+ yard performances from Hall and running back Tyler Allgeier.
Week 1 Pac-12 Defensive Lineman of the Week D.J. Davidson will be crucial in plugging up gaps in between the tackles, as well as ends Tyler Johnson and Michael Matus. Look out for freshman walk-on B.J. Green to get some more snaps, a coach’s favorite in the ASU locker room that has impressed in some late-game opportunities. Success defensively would be holding the Cougars to under 150 yards rushing.
Chase Lucas, Jack Jones, Evan Fields, and DeAndre Pierce are expected to continue performing at a high level, but BYU receiver Neil Pau’u poses a threat on the outside with over 150 yards receiving and three touchdowns on the year already.
However, no receiver from Southern Utah or UNLV had more than 28 yards receiving against Sun Devil defensive backs. A similar effort on Saturday night will be necessary for a win.
An ASU victory this week would earn the Sun Devils a quality win for the resume, and maybe, just maybe, AP voters will no longer confuse ASU with its southern in-state rival.