Sunday, September 28, 2008

Upset Weekend

This weekend's games brought a plethora of upsets, starting Thursday night with Oregon State over USC. The Top 25 poll will get shaken up as the following seven teams lost:

#1 USC at Oregon State, 27-21
#3 Georgia vs. #8 Alabama, 41-30
#4 Florida vs. Mississippi, 31-30
#9 Wisconsin at Michigan, 27-25
#16 Wake Forest vs. Navy, 24-17
#20 Clemson vs. Maryland, 20-17
#23 East Carolina vs. Houston, 41-24

In addition to these upsets there were almost even more, as #15 Auburn held off Tennessee, 14-12, to avoid the upset, #25 Fresno State held off UCLA, 36-31, and #5 LSU held off a stubborn Mississippi State squad, 34-24.

It will be interesting to see how the Top 25 shakes out when the poll is released later today. Oklahoma will most likely take over the top spot after their 35-10 win over #24 TCU and most likely will be followed by Texas, Alabama, Missouri and LSU.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Basketball Season Yet?

With the off week to regroup and refocus, let's shift gears to basketball.

ATHLON SPORTS: Ranks ASU at 16th and has them finishing behind UCLA in the Pac-10, but advancing to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. James Harden, a second-team All-American, is listed as the country's best slasher.

BLUE RIBBON YEARBOOK TOP 25: Ranks the Sun Devils at 15th and predict them to finish 2nd in the Pac-10 behind UCLA.

RIVALS.COM: Ranks ASU 25th. Its NCAA prediction: At least one tournament win

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Notes on this Weekend's Game

The Devils will not only host the #3 Georgia Bulldogs, 12,000 of their closest friends, and an ABC National Audience, but will also be celebrating "Champions Weekend." ASU will be honoring former player Randall McDaniel and former coach John Cooper Saturday night, as they will be inducted into the National College Football Hall of Fame in December. McDaniel will also see his number immortalized on the pressbox facade with the likes of Pat Tillman, Danny White, Whizzer White, Bobby Mulgado, John Jefferson, Mike Haynes, and Ron Pritchard. This is something slightly similar to the night where ASU named the playing field after Frank Kush. The Devils did so at halftime of a nationally televised game against #1 Nebraska and ended up shutting out and stunning the top ranked Cornhuskers 19-0. Does the similarity mean much? Not really, but i'll take anything at this point to help our cause this weekend. McDaniel is arguably the best offensive lineman to ever play for the Sun Devils. He was selected in the first round of the NFL draft after helping ASU win the 1987 Rose Bowl and was a first team All-Pac 10 selection twice. He had a 14 year NFL career and earned 12 Pro Bowl appearances en route to being named to the NFL's All-Decade team. Coach John Cooper was head coach at ASU from 1985-87, leading the Devils to three bowl games and having an overall record of 25-9-2 in Tempe. Cooper led the Devils to their first Rose Bowl berth in 1987 and beat Michigan to finish the season ranked #4 in the country.

An additional note about getting prepared for this weekend's game: ABC set up their quarterback "eye-in-the-sky" camera today at Sun Devil Stadium and are on campus to start setting up for the national broadcast come Saturday evening. Also, the Georgia fans are rolling into town. There were about a dozen or so walking around campus and the stadium today at various times.

Final Thoughts on the UNLV Game

I could write a book on my thoughts regarding the UNLV loss, but in order to not stir up emotions that have taken four days and multiple therapy visits to quell this will be just a short segment of notes.

First things first, UNLV made some amazing plays. They didn't give up when they were down 20-3, whether or not that's from the play calling is another whole issue, but the Rebels made ESPN highlight reel plays in that fateful fourth quarter. Secondly, our coaches and the players were caught looking forward to Georgia, no doubt about it. I believe our playcalling conservativeness was a result of the coaches asking themselves how they could best prepare the team to beat Georgia and the answer was to establish the run. By establishing a run game the Devils' coaches were hoping to get Georgia to then prepare for the run more, allowing them to throw the ball more effectively against the Dawgs. Our 20-3 lead then backfired on us because we were led to believe that our gameplan would work, but as the game wore on the running backs wore down and were less and less efficient and the Rebels made some great plays in shutting down our run game. The coaches had a preconcieved notion of running the ball a lot and that led to a stagnant offense with little emotion as it lacked a dynamic aspect to the playcalling. The blocked field goal attempt was a result of the left guard missing his block due to poor technique on the play and is an unfortunate mental mistake. There is absolutely no reason we should have lost that game but that is why we watch college football and play the games. Does this mean the Devils aren't a championship caliber team, not at all. Even the vaunted Trojans lost last year to lowly Stanford at home, the only difference being that was an even larger upset and it was a conference loss for the Trojans. This loss only hurts our pride, it might be in manslaughter proportions, but with Georgia and the rest of the Pac-10 on the schedule the Devils can put the loss behind them as a fluke.

Bottom line is this: Rehashing the game and second guessing will do nothing to change the score. Arizona State needs to put this loss behind them, take the frustration and anger from the loss and turn it into desire, passion, and determination to come out and play their finest game against the Georgia Bulldogs. Can the Sun Devils salvage the season? No, because the season isn't at a point to salvage. One non-conference fluke loss where we got caught looking ahead isn't going to cost anyone their job or ruin the season. The Devils are still 1-0 in the conference, where even a second place finish should challenge for a BCS bowl. So what can you do? Come out Saturday and cheer with a chip on your shoulder. Be as loud as you can and show the SEC and the nation that UNLV got lucky coming into Sun Devil Stadium and catching the Devils off guard. The sleeping giant has awoken.

Friday, September 12, 2008

SC Sideline turns Hollywood

Here is a list provided by USC of the notable celebs that will be in attendance and on the sideline for this weekend's hyped matchup between USC and Ohio State. I'm not sure the list can even begin to compare with UofA's new celeb fan, David Hasselhoff. Seen around some ASU games have been celebs such as Ike Diogu, Steve Nash, John Elway, Amare Stoudamire, Charles Barkley, and the spirit of Pat Tillman.

Jamie Foxx
Denzel Washington
Nick Lachey
Christian Slater
Henry Winkler
John Krasinski
Ed Helms
Robert Patrick
Kaitlin Olson
David James Elliot
Zach Galifianakis
George Eads
Jerry Bruckheimer
Alexis Jones

Dick Butkus
Isiah Thomas
Michael Strahan
Eddie George
Greg Oden
Amare Stoudemire
Anna Rawson
John David Washington

USC Football Alumni:
Anthony Munoz
Ronnie Lott
Marcus Allen
Charles White
Sam Cunningham
Rodney Peete
Dennis Thurman
Johnnie Morton
Todd Marinovich
Sean Salisbury
Jeff Bregel
Chris Hale
Mazio Royster
Malaefou MacKenzie
David Kirtman

USC 2008 Olympians:
Ous Mellouli
Larsen Jensen
Klete Keller
Erik Vendt

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ask & Ye Shall Receive

In order to keep my one reader, I do what's asked. So here's the Bad Voter of the Week...

Taylor Zarzour

His poll looked like this...

2 Florida
3 Georgia
4 Oklahoma
6 Wisconsin (Highest Ranking for Wisconsin)
7 Penn State (Highest)
8 Texas Tech
9 Ohio State (Lowest)
10 Texas
11 California (Highest)
12 Boise St (Highest)
13 BYU
14 USF
15 Missouri (Lowest)
16 Oregon
17 Wake Forest
18 Alabama
19 Utah
20 Florida State (Highest)
21 Kansas
22 Auburn (Lowest)
23 Fresno St
24 Arizona St
25 Notre Dame (Highest)

News, Notes, & GameDay

-- Offensive Coordinator Rich Olson was named one of the top coordinators of the week by The Devils' convincing offensive performance against Stanford put up 472 total yards, including 345 through the air.

-- ASU LB Gerald Munns was named the Pac-10 defensive player of the week for his performance against Stanford.

-- Rumors of ESPN GameDay coming to town for the ASU-Georgia game have been swirling. According to various sources, if they were to select Tempe for the weekly show, the set would be located on the SRC's Intramural fields. Last time the GameDay crew came (USC in 2005) they set up in Lot 59N, and had a good view of the stadium and the buttes from the Northeast. My suggestion for location would be the steps of Old Main, it's a little more scenic than the SRC fields.

-- Four of the ballots for the AP Poll had ASU ranked #8 in the country. The Devils' lowest ranking was 25th in one ballot. In unrelated news, that voter got voted as the bad voter of the week. The Devils' average ranking was 14.5 and their median ranking in the 65 ballots was 14.

Friday, September 5, 2008

ASU-Stanford Game Preview & Breakdown

As we get ready for the Pac-10 opener against Stanford on Saturday, let's break down the match-ups and preview the other conference games this weekend.

-- Quarterbacks -- Devils
The edge here is way in favor of the Sun Devils. QB Rudy Carpenter was the model of efficiency last week, completing 22-28 passes for 388 yards, the most yards by a Sun Devil quarterback in a season opener ever. Carpenter also tied a school record for most consecutive completions with 13 straight succesful passes. Stanford's QB, Travita Pritchard, won a three-way battle for the spot in the preseason and didn't have impressive passing numbers in his opening game against the Beavers. He didn't make a crucial mistake in the close game however, expect that to change against the ASU defense.

-- Running Backs -- Stanford
Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, who has a brother on the ASU team, rumbled for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Cardinal's win. Gerhart missed most of last year with an injury, but returned to form and is a very powerful runner who can be difficult to tackle. The Sun Devils running game struggled a bit in their opener against the 'Jacks, as QB Carpenter led all rushers with 40 yards on QB scrambles. Expect a boost to the running game this week however, as Herring and DeWitty return to the rotation. Also, NAU ran an unique defense that made running the ball extremely difficult. Just because of these few question marks last game, all of which have a reasonable answer however, I give a slight edge to the Cardinal run game.

-- Wide Receivers -- Devils
The Sun Devils will be winning this battle nearly every game this year. A talented receiving corps will look to create havoc for defenses and help Carpenter put up some big numbers in his senior season. The group is led by Mike Jones, who is nursing a strained achilles but should play come Saturday. Jones had six catches for 162 yards last week and had a bad-luck fumble as he reached for the endzone on one long reception. Look for Taylor and Robinson to see a lot of passes thrown their way in this game too, especially if the Cardinal key against the Devils run game. And of course, Chris McGaha should see his fair share of Carpenter's throws.

-- OL vs. DL -- Draw
The Sun Devils have the stronger defensive line, with defensive ends Dexter Davis and Luis Vasquez leading the attack. Both are relentless in their pass rush and should create problems for Pritchard all game long. Davis recorded two sacks last weekend against NAU. Also watch for DT David Smith for the Devils, a somewhat undersized DT, he makes up for it with speed and savvy.
The Cardinal get the slight advantage of the offensive lines. Stanford's front line isn't overwhelming and will struggle with the Devils defensive front, but until the ASU line proves itself against a formidable opponent the edge goes to the visitor's offensive line.

-- Linebackers -- Stanford
Most likely the best group on the Stanford defense, their linebackers will use plenty of blitzes to try and test the ASU O-Line and force Carpenter to make rush decisions. For the Devils, Mike Nixon leads the linebacking corps, a somewhat underrated (myself included in underrating them) group on the strong Sun Devil defense.

-- Defensive Backs -- ASU
ASU's Troy Nolan, Rodney Cox, and Terell Carr will make Pritchard think twice before going downfield with a pass. These DBs are much improved over the Beavers secondary the Cardinal faced last year and I'm predicting come away with at least an interception from Pritchard.

-- Special Teams -- ASU
ASU's All-Everything Utility Man, Thomas Weber, handles every facet of the kicking game for the Devils. The Groza Award winner connected on all three field goals last week and averaged 43 yards per punt, with two punts inside the twenty. On kick-offs he averaged 67 yards and had three touchbacks in seven attempts. The Cardinal K, Aaron Zagory, made two of three field goals last week. He hit from 41 and 42 yards out and missed a 49 yard attempt. Their punter averaged 45 yards per punt, with one inside the twenty.
The Devils line up two big play returners on kick-offs in Kyle Williams and Chris McGaha. Williams will also handle most punt return duties. Watch for Williams to take one back to the promised land this weekend.

-- The 'X' Factor -- ASU
This is one of the few legit upset games this weekend in college football. Stanford is much improved and has lost two straight to the Devils by ridiculously lopsided scores. The Cardinal will go on to upset quite a few teams this year in the Pac-10 as they keep improving under Harbough, but with all that being said with the Cardinal already having knocked off Oregon State in Week 1 the Devils won't be overlooking them in Week 2. Add that with the 100+ temperature, 9,400 students, and 68,000 fans in the House of Heat and we have a Sun Devil victory. ASU must not overlook or underestimate this team though, as they are no longer the Pac-10 cellar-dwellers.

Other Pac-10 games this week include Arizona against Toledo, California travelling to Washington State, #18 Oregon hosting Utah State and former ASU assistant Brent Guy, Oregon State going to Happy Valley to face #19 Penn State and JoePa, and the 15th ranked Stormin' Mormons heading to the Pacific Northwest to take on Washington.

Weekly News, Notes, & More

-- The absence of Sparky at midfield created quite a stir this past week, as rumors swirled about the university phasing out the iconic imp.
Well rest assured, Sparky is back on the field. Although still not at the 50 yard line, Sparky will be on the south side on the 25 yard line. The north 25 yard line will feature the Sun Devil Stadium 50th Anniversary logo.

-- Contrary to the news reported across the ESPN Ticker on Thursday night's football game, WR Mike Jones and RB Keegan Herring are expected to play this Saturday against the Furd. Herring missed a game for the first time in his career last week against NAU as he nursed a sore hamstring, but has been running at practice this week and is ready to get back on the field. Jones is expected to play after he sat out two practices with a strained achilles. According to Erickson, Jones "ran pretty good" and he "would be surprised if he didn't play." Also returning this week from an injury is RB Shaun DeWitty. DeWitty, ASU's biggest running back, sat out last week's game with a hamstring injury.

-- QB Rudy Carpenter will start his 33rd straight game on Saturday, he and Purdue's Painter lead all quarterbacks in the nation in most consecutive starts.

-- From the ESPN "Ten Things to Watch for Saturday" list:

2. Put '55' to bed: A 41-3 victory doesn't raise many fretful eyebrows for a winning team, but Arizona State bludgeoned Stanford by that count in its 2007 Pac-10 opener, while -- eyebrow arch now! -- giving up five first-half sacks. Thus commenced a storyline that continues today with the oft-repeated stat of 55 sacks yielded last year by the Sun Devils OL. Stanford's defensive front is stout, winning the battle at the line of scrimmage last Thursday against Oregon State. If the rebuilt Sun Devils offensive line, however, can at least reach a stalemate, then...

3. Given time, Carpenter will shine: If Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter isn't running for his life against Stanford, he will pick apart the Cardinal secondary, which won't match up with the Sun Devils skill and depth at WR, even if Michael Jones is limited by a toe injury. Oregon State and its outstanding WRs piled up over 400 yards passing; Carpenter could equal that.

8. What about Gerhart's encore?: Stanford running back Toby Gerhart ate up Oregon State with 147 yards on 19 carries and two TDs. The 230 pounder has the speed to get to the corner and the size to make things difficult once he breaks the line of scrimmage. He shredded the Beavers typically rugged run defense, so what will he do against the Sun Devils? If there's not a lot of room for Gerhart and the Cardinal running game, then things will be much harder for Stanford, which struggled to establish its passing game against the Beavers and is thin at receiver.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Scoreboard Watching

Pac-10 Results:

-- Stanford 36 Oregon State 28
Oregon State fumbled away an opportunity to tie the game with 50 seconds left. After a first quarter pillow fight, both teams decided to score some points and make it a ballgame. RB Gerhart led the Cardinal with 147 yards on the ground.

-- #3 USC 52 Virginia 7
Sanchez threw for 338 yards as the Trojans romped Virginia. The score after the first was 21-7, but the Trojans shut out the Cavaliers the rest of the way en route to their shalacking.

-- Oklahoma State 39 Washington State 13
Oklahoma State jumped out to a 15-0 lead at the half and never looked back as they easily handled the Cougars.

-- California 38 Michigan State 31
Vareen's long TD sealed Cal's win. Best led the Bears with 111 yards rushing.

-- Arizona 70 Idaho 0
Arizona's first shutout since 1996 against the worst team in the FBS in front of 47,511 at Arizona Stadium.

-- #21 Oregon 44 Washington 10
Oregon dominated every facet of this game in their romp behind QB Masoli. RB Johnson had 124 yards rushing and Masoli threw for 126.


-- #1 Georgia over Georgia Southern, 45-21

-- UNLV over Utah State, 27-17

Some upsets:

-- East Carolina 27 over #17 Virginia Tech 22

-- Bowling Green 27 over #25 Pitt 17

-- Utah 25 over Michigan 23

-- Louisiana Tech 22 over Mississippi State 14

-- Arkansas State 18 over Texas A&M 14

-- #24 Alabama 34 over #9 Clemson 10

-- Cal Poly 29 over San Diego State 27

Some near upsets:

-- Maryland over Delaware, 14-7

-- North Carolina over McNeese State, 35-27

-- Arkansas over Western Illinois, 28-24

-- San Jose State over UC Davis, 13-10