ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS (9-2)
at ARIZONA WILDCATS (9-2)
Kickoff: Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Arizona -2.5, Total: 62.5
Two rivals seeking their 10th win of the season will clash on Friday afternoon when No. 11 Arizona hosts No. 13 Arizona State.
The Sun Devils (6-5 ATS) have been great this year against ranked teams, going 3-1, with their lone loss being to UCLA in Tempe in the fourth game of the season. Since then, they are 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS overall with a 52-31 blowout win over Washington State last week. The Wildcats (4-7 ATS) are also coming off a huge victory, prevailing 42-10 at Utah last week to mark their second Top 25 victory on the road. Although Arizona has been very good at home this season (5-1 SU), it has not been very dominant in those games (1-5 ATS). ASU has played very well in Tucson recently, going 9-2 ATS (7-4 SU) in its past 11 visits in this series. Last season these two teams met in Tempe, with the Sun Devils rolling to the 58-21 victory. The biggest reason for the blowout was because of the turnovers, as Arizona had four giveaways to just one for Arizona State. Sun Devils QB Taylor Kelly threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. While ASU is 7-0 ATS versus poor defenses (425+ YPG allowed) in the past three seasons, the Wildcats benefit from the fact that road underdogs in a game involving two explosive offenses (34+ PPG), after scoring 37+ points in the previous game are 25-56 ATS (32%) since 1992. While Arizona has no significant injuries, ASU might have to play this game without DL Jaxon Hood (personal) or DB Ezekiel Bishop (knee), but star WR Jaelen Strong (concussion) has been upgraded to probable.
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Arizona State has been great on offense all season, ranking 18th in FBS scoring (37.2 PPG), 29th in passing (277.2 YPG) and 59th in rushing (175.4 YPG). QB Taylor Kelly (1,730 pass yards, 234 rush yards, 21 total TD), who has missed a couple games due to injury, has shown the ability to be a dual-threat. Joining him in the backfield is one of the more versatile running backs in college football in junior RB D.J. Foster (170 carries, 968 yards, 9 TD). At 203 pounds, Foster is fast enough to break off a long run, but he also has no problem lowering the shoulder and running over a defender. What separates him from a lot of running backs is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, as he 52 receptions for 586 yards. With defenses having to focus on Foster, WR Jaelen Strong (71 catches, 982 yards, 9 TD) is afforded many opportunities to see one-on-one coverage. If Strong suffers a setback, No. 2 WR Cameron Smith (34 catches, 541 yards, 6 TD) becomes the top option for the team. The ASU defense, which ranks 65th in the nation in points allowed (26.4 PPG), will have its hands full against the Arizona offense. Senior DB Damarious Randall (89 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3 INT) is the star on this unit, and a guy who will find himself lined up all over the field in this game. Senior DE Marcus Hardison (10 sacks, 38 tackles, 13 TFL) demands a double-team, as he is the only Sun Devils player with more than five sacks. If he can cause the havoc he has all year, then Arizona State could have a great chance to get the win.
The Arizona offense has been better than expected this year, ranking 15th in FBS passing (299.0 YPG), 22nd in scoring (36.2 PPG) and 42nd in rushing (195.7 YPG). Leading the way has been the play of freshman QB Anu Solomon (3,216 pass yards, 329 rush yards, 26 total TD), who has taken the job and absolutely run with it. He has shown tremendous poise for a freshman quarterback, throwing only seven interceptions this year. The ground game is led by another freshman, RB Nick Wilson (180 carries, 1,085 yards, 12 TD), who has been a major surprise, similar to Solomon. At 5-foot-10 and 199 pounds, he is not the biggest running back but what makes him such an effective runner is the ability to read the blocking, and hitting the hole when it opens up. There are plenty of talented players at the receiver position, with WRs Cayleb Jones (60 catches, 803 yards, 8 TD), Samajie Grant (36 catches, 554 yards, 3 TD) and Austin Hill (38 catches, 541 yards, 4 TD) all capable of big games. Solomon does such a great job of finding the receiver with the mismatch, and exploiting it. The defense has given up some points (24.6 PPG allowed, 54th in nation), but when it has needed to step up, this unit has done just that. LB Scooby Wright III (126 tackles, 22 TFL, 12 sacks) is one of the most underrated defensive players in the country. He is not the most physically gifted player, but he is absolutely relentless when getting after the quarterback. In a game against Oregon earlier in the season, he stripped the ball away from Marcus Mariota to get the victory. Senior S Jared Tevis (100 tackles, 8 TFL, 3 sacks) is another guy on the defense that can make a lot of plays, and he should be up for the challenge of trying to slow the Arizona State offense down.