Location: Sun Devil Football Stadium, Tempe, AZ
Kick Off: 9:30 pm CT
TV: Fox Sports 1
Stream: Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Audio: Ticket 760
Betting Odds: Arizona State -18.5, O/U 54
Series Record: Arizona State leads 1-0
Last Meeting: Arizona State won 32-28. Here’s a link to the recap.
Arizona State Outlook
The Sun Devils shook the college football community this fall after firing Todd Graham and then turning around and hiring TV personality Herm Edwards as head coach. The former NFL head coach was fired by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008, leaving him with a 56-78 head coaching record in the NFL. Edwards has never been a head coach at the collegiate level, last coaching in the NCAA ranks as a defensive backs coach way back in 1989.
While Arizona State’s coaching hire is certainly out of left field, Edwards will have an opportunity to prove his doubters wrong starting this Saturday.
The Sun Devils will look similar on offense this season after Edwards opted to promote Arizona State’s wide receivers coach to offensive coordinator. ASU features a deadly trio in quarterback Manny Wilkins, preseason All-American N’Keal Harry, and running back Eno Benjamin. Those three should be the most talented offensive trio that UTSA will face all year.
Arizona State’s biggest challenge on offense in 2017 was providing Manny Wilkins with a clean passing pocket. In order to address the line’s lack of passing protection, ASU added Stanford graduate transfer Casey Tucker to the mix, where he’ll be a day-one starter at left tackle.
Whereas Arizona State’s offense should look familiar this year, the Sun Devils’ defense has seen drastic changes. Herm Edwards made a strong hire in poaching San Diego State’s Danny Gonzales at defensive coordinator. He’s shifted Arizona State’s defense to a 3-3-5 alignment.
On top of the Sun Devils transitioning to a new defensive scheme and coordinator, they’ll also depend on two freshmen to anchor the middle of the field. Keep an eye on Merlin Robertson and Darien Butler as the youngster adjust to the collegiate game.
Year three of Frank Wilson’s UTSA program comes with great change. The Roadrunners will welcome new coordinators on both sides of the ball and will need to replace major contributors at several different positions.
UTSA won’t see too much change on defense, albeit the absence of former defensive end Marcus Davenport will sting. Look for defensive tackle Kevin Strong and defensive end Eric Banks to step up to help fill the loss in production following Davenport’s graduation.
The biggest question mark for UTSA on defense will certainly be its unproven cornerbacks. With both starting cornerbacks from last year’s squad having moved on, the Roadrunners will need the rest of the unit to take major steps forward this year.
If the Roadrunners are to match their defensive dominance from last season then they’ll need freshman All American Josiah Tauaefa to bounce back from an injury-stricken sophomore season. Based off reports from fall camp, Tauaefa should be prepared to lead the defense into battle.
While UTSA has a few question marks on offense, they dot the entire landscape of the offense.
Junior college transfer Cordale Grundy won a competitive quarterback battle and has shown nerves of steel in preseason scrimmages. While he lacks former starting quarterback Dalton Sturm’s big play heroics, Grundy is the right choice for making the correct decision on each snap of a drive.
Grundy has young and talented players all around him but their ability to produce at the collegiate level is unproven.
True freshman Tykee Ogle-Kellogg and redshirt freshman Tariq Woolen are UTSA’s most physically gifted receivers in program history but they’ve yet to face cornerbacks as talented as those in Arizona State’s secondary.
Expect UTSA to rely heavily on senior running back Jalen Rhodes and his sophomore counterpart BJ Daniels to find open space against Arizona State’s three man defensive front. If the Roadrunners can average four yards a pop on the ground then Grundy should be able to make some plays happen through the air as the Sun Devils’ safeties get pulled to the line of scrimmage.
With UTSA a total unknown on offense and Arizona State featuring a lot of question marks on defense, it’s hard to pin down exactly how this game will turn out. Will UTSA’s young offense react well to a late night road game in a Pac 12 stadium? Can Arizona State’s freshmen linebackers keep Jalen Rhodes and BJ Daniels bottled up? I think we’ll see a lot of of shaky play and mental mistakes on both sides of the ball but Arizona State’s offense simply features too many playmakers for the Roadrunners to keep up for a full four quarters.
Arizona State 35, UTSA 21