The big question heading into this one is who on earth will play quarterback for the Sun Devils against the Ducks? Last weekend after having a few quarterbacks injured, Arizona State often deployed a Wildcat or as they call it Sparky offense with the running back leading the way. There’s a few options of who could start for the Sun Devils. True freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole came into action when the starter was hurt last week and went 7-16 and 86 yards. The normal starter has been sophomore Manny Wilkins who has been banged up all season and was knocked out of last week’s game with a shoulder injury. Latest reports as of Tuesday suggest that the freshman Sterling-Cole is leading the first team offense and preparing to start against the Ducks.
Chip Lindsey leads the way for the Arizona State offense in his first year as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. For the past two seasons he spent time at Southern Mississippi where he was the offensive coordinator for a group that broke multiple records. Previously he has spent time with Gus Malzahn at Auburn where he learned the offensive system that he puts out there. It’s a spread offense with often two guys in the backfield.
I’ve been having a hard time figuring this group out. I really like their skill position players but I’m certainly not sold on their quarterback or offensive line. I think that’s why we see so much trickery with the Sparky package. Anyway, this is an offense that is currently averaging 35.75 points per game. What’s interesting is that you’d expect this to be an offense that averages more than 386 yards per game.
Of those 386 yards per game, the Sun Devils get 158 per game on the ground and 228 per game through the air. Obviously the run defense (let’s be honest, all defense) is a concern for the Ducks so they need to be cognizant of the Sun Devils rushing attack. Arizona State has been prone to coughing up the ball, turning it over seven times with an interception and five times with fumbles. They’ve been awful on third down conversion, going just 39.53%. They have completed on fourth down conversions four of the seven times for 57.14%. For a team that doesn’t put up fantastic yards, they clearly get their points once in the redzone. Only one time this year have they not scored once reaching the redzone. In 30 tries, they’ve scored touchdowns on 20 trips and settled for field goals on nine.
Last year it was senior quarterback Mike Bercovici who gave the Ducks fits with his five touchdowns and 398 yards. The Ducks did get burned on the ground too though, giving up 344 yards on 55 carries for an average of 6.3 per carry.
Three players to watch:
N’Keal Harry, #1, freshman wide receiver, 6' 4", 220 lbs.
When watching the game against Washington State this is the guy that absolutely jumped out to me. He is a very big receiver, with excellent hands and strength. I immediately saw him as a guy that will give the Ducks secondary fits. This freshman has three receiving touchdowns and a second team high of 342 yards.
Kalen Ballage, #7, junior running back, 6' 2", 227 lbs.
Although he’s not the leading rusher (120 yards behind the leader) he’s done so on 54 less carries. This guy is one explosive player who needs to be accounted for. He leads the running backs by double with his ten touchdowns on the year. He had one of the most impressive games in college football against Texas Tech where he racked up seven (yes, seven!) rushing touchdowns along with one receiving touchdown.
Manny Wilkins #5, sophomore quarterback, 6’ 3”, 197 lbs.
There’s a big asterisk by this, but if Wilkins is playing he’s a pretty solid player. He has a 60% completion percentage with six passing touchdowns and five interceptions. Where he really makes an impact is with his legs. He’s currently the team’s third leading rusher with 352 yards, and second on the team with his five touchdowns.