As good as ASU has been this season they have a huge deficiency n the offense, the ability to protect the quarterback.
They lead the Pac-10 in sacks allowed at 43, couple that with a solid USC pass rush, and the #1 defense in the Pac-10- #3 nationally, and on paper you see this game today shaping up to be a real mess for ASU. Rudy Carpenter has been a piñata back in the pocket and he has an injured hand to show for it. To this point they have gotten away with I but they have yet to play a defense of this caliber.
Arizona Coach Dennis Erickson agrees:
Some of what Erickson sees is familiar.
"They remind me a little bit of some of the fronts I had at Miami, Warren Sapp, Cortez Kennedy and some of those guys," Erickson said.
[...]Said Erickson: "We haven't seen a defense close to it."
While a lot of people will point to the front seven going up against the ASU offensive line as the premier battle to watch I would say look more carefully at how the secondary performs today. If the pressure comes Carpenter will put it up and then it is all on the secondary to shut it down. I don't think it will surprise anyone if we see a lot of blitzes to pressure Carpenter even more.
And Safety Kevin Ellison will be looking to conquer some demons of his own:
Ellison had graduated a semester early from Redondo Union High to join the Trojans in 2005 spring practice. By the time USC played Arizona State in its fourth game, he was part of the third-down defensive package.
"I didn't really know what I was doing," he said this week. "It was happening fast back then. I got lucky on the interception. It happened to get tipped to me and I was in the right place at the right time.
"Well, maybe the wrong place at the wrong time as far as my knee. But everything happens for a reason."
His leadership will be key tonight in not letting the Sun Devils convert any big plays.
Freshman Everson Griffen has some opinions of his own,
"They're just slow, big guys, that's it," he said. "Just run past them."
I always like to be careful as not to give the opponent any bulletin board material but you gotta love the kid's enthusiasm.
So we'll see how it goes tonight, I think SC will do ok but it will be on the defense to shut the Sun Devils down.