Sun Devil Nation breathed a collective sigh of relief last Saturday after watching a complete dismantling of the overmatched UTSA Roadrunners. The sobering moment came shortly thereafter with the realization that the #15 ranked Michigan State Spartans will be invading Tempe this weekend for the annual blackout. We are going to take a look at some key details to keep an eye on for ASU to have success this weekend.
ASU Running Backs Eno Benjamin and Isaiah Floyd combined for 210 yards rushing behind an Offensive Line that completely manhandled the UTSA Defensive Line. Time of possession and sustained drives, in combination with sweltering heat, will be key factors in fatiguing the Spartan defense and paving the way for the Sun Devil offense to put up points and not play from behind.
The Offensive Line also gave QB Manny Wilkins time to go through his progressions, stay in the pocket, and pick out downfield receivers. RB Eno Benjamin will have to continue doing a great job of picking up the blitz to keep ASU out of long down and distance situations. This Spartan defense will be one of the biggest and most physical units ASU will see all season. They are led by DT Raequan Williams who is known to wreak havoc in the offensive backfield and stuff the running game.
Despite losing Kalen Ballage, Eno Benjamin (@eno_benjamin5) has emerged as the next guy.
Ran for 131 yards vs. UTSA. He showed wiggle, balance, a nasty spin move and the ability to force false steps in tight spaces. Good receiver with the and shows to create space at 2nd level. pic.twitter.com/KRAAFIM3c1
— Gavino Borquez (@GavinoBorquez) September 7, 2018
Look for ASU Offensive Coordinator Rob Likens to open up the playbook with creative play calling after running a very limited selection of plays last week. There will be some misdirection plays that will take advantage of Michigan State being overly aggressive with their pursuit. I suspect we’ll see Wilkins rolling out and making throws on the run that will force the Spartan front 7 to be honest and put a ton of pressure on their secondary. WR N’Keal Harry has crept into the Heisman conversation after a huge game last week, but he’s going to have to maintain his upward trajectory this week with at least a few more big plays.
Voices from the other side-
— azcentral (@azcentral) September 7, 2018
The ASU defense did a great job of outside contain last week. They will be facing a much more mobile QB in local high school product Brian Lewerke who can make plays outside the pocket and turn broken plays into big gains. The ASU front 7 will have to stay disciplined and keep big plays on the outside to a minimum. The Sun Devil pass rush was dominant last week, however, they will be facing a much more physical, talented, and experienced Michigan State O-Line charged with controlling the line of scrimmage.
The 2018 Michigan State offense breaks the traditional mold of a “grind it out” Big-10 team. Regardless of whether or not it was a function of having to come from behind last week, they showed that they possess a formidable passing attack. Lewerke threw for 287 yards and will again be targeting their big and talented receiver Felton Davis (highlights from MSU’s week 1 game below). The ASU secondary, which is still shuffling personnel at the Tillman and Ranger Safety positions, will be tasked with limiting big plays to a deep and dangerous Receivers group.
ASU’s defense recorded 9 sacks last week and will be intent on causing fits for Lewerke and company with more exotic schemes from Defensive Coordinator Danny Gonzalez. DT and team captain Renell Wren will be counted on again to employ his relentless pass rush and slow down any would-be rushing attack. The official depth chart for this week lists true Freshmen Merlin Robertson and Darien Butler as starters at Linebacker. Although both were fundamentally sound in their responsibilities last week, there were times when their drops into coverage were a bit delayed. They must dissect plays quicker in order to be fully effective this week.
A dominant performance by @Renell_Wren as he anchors a very talented @ASUFootball Defensive Line. Another #EliteMade Player Making his presence known on the national stage. #STLfootball pic.twitter.com/SNvEUfpOJO
— EliteFootballAcademy (@elitefootball) September 2, 2018
Michigan State had 9 penalties for 62 yards last week. ASU primarily shot themselves in the foot with penalties on Special Teams (punt team) which should have been cleaned up over the course of practice this past week. ASU punter Michael Sleep-Dalton, the 3rd most effective punter in the nation last week, was nothing less than a weapon last week. He consistently pinned UTSA inside their own 20-yard line with booming punts that flipped the field in favor of the Sun Devils. Winning the field position battle wins games.
Pac-12 football player of the week – week one special teams nominee: Michael Sleep-Dalton, ASU (Geelong – St. Joseph's College)
Stats: 5 punts | 47.4 average | longest 62 yards | 237 yards | 4 in20 | 2 50+https://t.co/s7c12driFN pic.twitter.com/e7WKAE9JMJ
— Justin van Rossum (@JustinvanRossum) September 5, 2018
Big-10 teams traditionally travel well, and the Spartan faithful will be in full effect this week in an attempt to disrupt our annual “Blackout” of Sun Devil Stadium. It has been reported that the allotted tickets for the visiting section sold out within 8 minutes of going on sale in East Lancing. Some reports have estimated that the crowd may consist of up to 40% Michigan State fans. It will be imperative that Sun Devil Nation shows up, wears black, and makes noise in order to keep our all-time home undefeated record against the Big-10 intact.
Welcome to hell, Sparty.
— Isaac Valenzuela (@IsaacValenzue1a) September 5, 2018
— ABC15 Arizona (@abc15) September 8, 2018