The Spartans head out west to Pac-12 territory after escaping the season opener in East Lansing with a win over Utah State. Arizona State is a school that you have likely seen play only if you are like me and like to stay up for Pac-12 after dark action late into the night on Saturday. They haven’t been in the national spotlight for a while, which is one of the reasons they went out and hired Herm Edwards in the off-season. Here’s what else to know about MSU’s week two opponent…
School: Arizona State University
Nickname: Sun Devils
Location: Tempe, Arizona
Head Coach: Herman Edwards (1st season)
Record: 1-0 (7-6 in 2017, lost Sun Bowl to NC State)
Mascot: Sparky the Sun Devil
All Time Series: 1-1-0 (Last meeting Arizona State won 20-17 in Tempe)
The Sun Devils kicked off the Herm Edwards era with an easy 49-7 win over UT-San Antonio at home on Saturday. The Roadrunners of UTSA didn’t get on the board until about six minutes left in the game. Arizona State racked up 503 yards of total offense, pretty evenly split between the air and the ground. On defense the Sun Devils completely shut down the UTSA running game, holding them to just two yards on 34 attempts. NINE quarterback sacks had a lot to do with that total rushing yardage number for the Roadrunners.
Herm Edwards, the new ASU head honcho, was last seen on the sidelines back in 2008 when he was head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. Edwards had not coached for a college program since he was the defensive backs coach at San Jose State from 1987-89. After spending almost a decade as an analyst, Arizona State decided he was the right man to take the reins in Tempe.
With only one game to look at we will dip back into last year for the overall team numbers. The Sun Devils were 42nd in the country in scoring offense last year, putting up 31.8 points per game. They were 43rd in passing offense and 51st in rushing offense.
The offense has a new play caller, with Rob Likens taking over as the offensive coordinator after serving as the wide receivers coach last year. The former OC, Billy Napier, took the head coaching job at Louisiana-Lafayette. Likens has previous OC experience, most recently at Kansas.
Defense was the problem for Arizona State a year ago. They were 103rd in scoring defense, allowing 32.8 points per game. They were 78th in rushing defense, but 121st in passing defense, allowing about 275 passing yards per game and 7.8 yards per pass attempt.
The defense also has a new coordinator, with Danny Gonzalez taking over the role under the new regime. Gonzalez is fresh off his first season as a D-coordinator, having been in charge of the defense at San Diego State last year. The Aztecs were a top-ten scoring defense last year, allowing only 18.3 points per game.
Players to Watch
Wide Receiver N’Keal Harry is one of the best wideouts in the country. Harry led all Pac-12 receivers in yards with 1,142 last year. He was second in the conference with 82 receptions. He also had eight touchdowns. He is legit, with a 6-4, 216 pound frame, and is going to be a difficult matchup for MSU’s secondary. Oh and he got off to a good start this year with six catches for 140 yards and two scores against UTSA.
The Sun Devils have a veteran at quarterback too in senior Manny Wilkins, who comes in as the 10th all-time passer in school history. Wilkins has 5,836 passing yards, 36 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions in 28 career games at ASU. He also has 611 rushing yards and 12 TD’s, the fourth most in school history. In the opener against UTSA Wilkins was 16-of-24 (66.7%) for 237 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran the ball six times for 28 yards.
On the ground it looks like it will be a combination of Eno Benjamin and Isiah Floyd out of the backfield for Arizona State. Both are sophomore backs who averaged over eight yards per carry last week against UTSA.
Defensively, junior Darius Slade and freshman DJ Davidson both picked up a pair of sacks in the season opener. Sophomore defensive back Chase Lucas led the team with two interceptions last year and had three tackles for loss last week.
Kicker Brandon Ruiz made over 70% of his field goal attempts last year and was 49-for-50 on extra points.