coleryan Posts:11963 Followers:19
On 09/09/2013 10:50 AM in NCAA Football

Wisconsin Badgers at Arizona State Sun Devils: Preview and Pick

Wisconsin Badgers at Arizona State Sun Devils: Preview and Pick

The national television audience will get a treat this weekend when the Wisconsin Badgers vs. Arizona State Sun Devils game gets a huge audience. Both of these teams get overshadowed in their own conference but by the end of the season both of these teams will be considered top teams and it all starts this weekend.

Wisconsin Badgers at Arizona State Sun Devils Odds

The college football betting line for this game opened up with the Sun Devils listed as (-4) point favorites. With the travel for the Badgers to play in a different location the line slowly began to grow. The line can now be found with the Sun Devils (-5.5) depending on what top ranked sportsbook you use. This is an interesting line move considering that 56 percent of the public is betting on the Badgers.

This year the Badgers travel to Tempe ranked No. 20 in the AP poll while the Sun Devils sit on the cusp of the national rankings as the first team out in the others receiving votes category. The Badgers beat the Sun Devils a year ago with a last second special team’s play, so the Sun Devils will be the team with revenge.

They also come in with plenty of talent especially on offense where they have some brilliant pass catchers. Junior-college transfer wide receiver Jaelen Strong caught six receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown in the last game. This was in limited playing time since the Sun Devils easily won the game. In their victory over Sacramento State, 11 different Sun Devil receivers caught 27 passes for a total of 365 yards which shows just how much aptitude they have.

Wisconsin also has plenty of talent as they start a season with a new head coach. The Badgers are a physical football team that has a solid defense. In national total defense, Wisconsin is No. 1 (162.5 yards per game) and that is just ahead of ASU at No. 2 (167).

The college football betting trends favor the Sun Devils in this contest. The Sun Devils are 39-19-2 against the spread (ATS) in their last 60 games after allowing less than 170 yards passing in their previous game, 6-2 ATS in the last eight home games and 6-1 ATS in the last seven games against the Big Ten Conference.

The Badgers are 4-10 ATS in their last 14 games after accumulating more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game, 6-14 ATS in their last 20 games after allowing less than 275 total yards in their previous game and 1-7 ATS in their last 8 games after scoring more than 40 points in their previous game.

Wisconsin Badgers at Arizona State Sun Devils Pick

With plenty of time to go before game day, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to kickoff.

coleryan Posts:11963 Followers:19
09/10/2013 03:47 PM

Hammering Massachusetts of the Mid-American Conference and FBS Tennessee Tech might not reveal much about a BCS conference team. But when it’s Wisconsin, coming off three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances, Todd Graham knows plenty about the caliber of opponent that Arizona State faces Saturday.

“These guys are a really, really good football team,” Graham said. “Totally dominated their first two opponents. Really physical defense up front, really good in all phases. They have three running backs that are really special. We’ve prepared for this, and we’re looking forward to it. This is why you coach.”

The Badgers come to Tempe for the first time since 1968 ranked No. 20 in the Associated Press poll, which has ASU (1-0) just outside the Top 25, first among others receiving votes. It’s the rematch of a 2010 game in Madison won 20-19 by Wisconsin thanks to a blocked extra point with 4:09 remaining.

Neither team has had a point scored against it. In national total defense, Wisconsin is No. 1 (162.5 yards per game) and ASU No. 2 (167).


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Injury report

Starting linebacker Chris Young practiced while wearing a left knee brace from an injury suffered against Sacramento State. Safety Damarius Randall was no longer wearing a non-contact green jersey and the transfer from Mesa Community College could make his debut against the Badgers.

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ASU is 16-14 all-time against teams from the Big Ten, 13-4 against Big Ten teams in games in Tempe. ... ASU is 2-1 all-time against Wisconsin. The Sun Devils lost 20-19 in 2010 in Madison, while sweeping a pair of games in 1967 and 1968

coleryan Posts:11963 Followers:19
09/11/2013 03:05 PM

With a 48-0 defeat of Tennessee Tech Saturday, Wisconsin became the first Big Ten team since the 1963 Ohio State Buckeyes to open the season with consecutive shutouts. While that is an accomplishment that any team would be proud of, the Badgers know they haven't even scratched the surface of the level of competition they will see over the remaining 10 weeks of the regular season.

Enter Arizona State.

The Sun Devils finished third in the Pac-12 South last year and enter the 2013 season with high hopes. After having a bye-week in Week 1, Arizona State flexed its muscles in a 55-0 win this past Thursday night against Sacramento State. No wonder the Badgers find themselves as 5.5 point underdogs.

Before sitting down to watch this weekend's game, here are three things to know about the Sun Devils.

- They are 'Strong' at wide receiver
Junior-college transfer wide receiver Jaelen Strong put his stamp on the season-opener for the Sun Devils last week. In limited playing time, because many of Arizona State's starters rested on the sidelines in the second half, Strong caught six receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown.

The 6-foot-4 receiver, who has three years of eligibility remaining, is a big target for junior quarterback Taylor Kelly. Strong used his strength (no pun intended) to haul in a 24-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter even though a defender was called for pass interference on the play.

"Jaelen is a big physical guy that can go up and get the ball," head coach Todd Graham said after the win Thursday. "He gives us a nice target out there. He's also a guy that on third down and nine can go down there and post up and get a first down. And he's learning; he's only going to get better."

Strong isn't the only receiver that Kelly looks to, however. In their victory over Sacramento State, 11 different Sun Devil receivers caught 27 passes for a total of 365 yards.

Tight ends Chris Coyle and De'Marieya Nelson both hauled in touchdown passes, so the Badgers will have to look for each of them releasing their blocks and finding space in the open field.


- A tale of two defenses
Arizona State led the nation in tackles for loss per game and ranked second in sacks last season. That same defense, however, was also 10th in the Pac-12 in rush defense (182.8 yards allowed per game) and gave up 26 plays of 30-plus yards, tied for ninth (with Arizona) in the Pac-12.

Upon reviewing those statistics, it's fair to say that the Sun Devils believe in an aggressive, harassing mode of defense.

Graham confirmed that assessment last week. I know I'm not going to be happy if we're finessing anything. There are two types of coaches: ones that try not to lose and ones that just go out and put it in the left lane and say, 'Let's go perform.' I want the scheme to fit who I am and what I believe. Everything we do, we're going to be aggressive.

Defensive tackle Will Sutton, defensive end Carl Bradford and Chris Young are the premier talents on this aggressive squad. Bradford is not a traditional defensive end in the sense that he is a "Devilbacker" -- a hybrid position in Graham's defensive scheme that attacks from the edge. Redshirt freshman Viliami Moekiola starts for the Sun Devils at free safety.

Young was taken out of the Sacramento State game with a lower-leg injury and his status is still uncertain for the Badgers. If he can't go, one can be certain that James White, Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement will be licking their lips in anticipation of going up against this already iffy rush defense.

Arizona State gave up 150 yards or more in six of nine conference games last year. Of those six games, ASU allowed 200 yards or more in four, and of those four, one was Oregon who, put up 406 yards on the ground. If the Sun Devils think the Badgers have a running attack that isn't better than just about every team in the Pac-12 -- Oregon aside -- they will have another thing coming this weekend.

While the Sun Devils did hold Sacramento State to just 51 rushing yards on 31 attempts (1.6 yards per rush), it must be taken with a grain of salt as the Hornets have trailed for 106 minutes and 12 seconds of the 120 minutes they have played so far this season.


- Another dual-threat

The Badgers did a commendable job in containing Darian Stone of Tennessee Tech, holding him to just 16 yards on seven carries (2.3 yards per rush). The competition gets a little tougher here in containing Arizona State's dual-threat junior quarterback, Taylor Kelly.

The Sun Devils don't dial up as many designed quarterback draws as the Golden Eagles did, but Kelly has the ability to pack it in and run for the first down if his receivers are covered down the field. Last season, Kelly rushed for 516 yards and averaged almost four yards per rush.

But, as most quarterbacks do, Kelly earns his scholarship with his arm. The Eagle, Idaho, native was 23-of-31 for 300 yards and five touchdowns in one half of action Thursday night against Sacramento State, so there's no question he will be the best quarterback the Badgers have seen so far this year. In 2012, his first season as a starter, Kelly threw for 3,039 yards, 29 touchdowns and had a 67.1 completion percentage.

If there's a knock on Kelly, however, it's his turnovers. In his career, Kelly has a 3.78 touchdown-to-interception ratio, something that Graham no doubt hopes sees improvement this year. With Gary Andersen and Dave Aranda preaching turnovers to the Badgers defense, the opportunity is there to pounce on what could be a weakness in the Sun Devils' arsenal.

With these three things in mind, the Badgers should be prepared for their first real test of the 2013 season. Playing on a Saturday night at any college stadium is tough, but going into Sun Devil Stadium with 75,000 screaming fans and coming out with a win is quite the task. Andersen has said in the past that he likes playing tough schedules and he certainly has his wish here with Arizona State. Come Sunday morning, Badger nation should have a better understanding of just how good this 2013 squad is and can be.

coleryan Posts:11963 Followers:19
09/12/2013 01:29 PM

This is old hat for University of Wisconsin senior left guard Ryan Groy. Given the strength of the defensive tackles in the Big Ten Conference last season, Groy seemed to go up against a great player nearly every game. So, he relishes the chance to face senior defensive tackle Will Sutton and the rest of Arizona State’s ferocious pass rush on Saturday night in Tempe, Ariz. “It’s something you obviously build your resume on,” Groy said. “People don’t go back and look at Tennessee Tech and see how good you played against them. They go to Arizona State and when you play NFL-style defensive tackles.”

It’s no different for UW sophomore left tackle Tyler Marz, who has only two starts under his belt and will be making his first road start in what figures to be a loud, hot and hostile environment.

One of the many challenges Marz will face is junior linebacker Carl Bradford, the other half of the Sun Devils’ touted pass-rushing duo.

Only 10 returning Football Bowl Subdivision players posted 10 or more sacks in 2012 and Sutton and Bradford are the only teammates, helping Arizona State rank second in the nation in sacks with 4.0 per game (52 total).

Sutton posted 13 sacks, fourth-most in a single season in school history, and is bigger and stronger this year, according to Sun Devils coach Todd Graham.

After deciding to return for his final year after an NFL draft grade he deemed too low, Sutton has gone from 275 pounds last year to 310 this year, Graham said.

“I’m a great competitor, I like to compete,” Marz said. “It’s the first road game, it should be a good atmosphere, hot weather, it will be a fun challenge.”

While Sutton garners the most attention, Bradford can be just as disruptive, playing what amounts to a hybrid role between defensive end and outside linebacker. He finished with 11½ sacks last season.

“They play the right way on defense,” UW offensive line coach T.J. Woods said. “That’s why they’ve been successful on that side of the ball. It’ll be fun.”

The Arizona State defense features multiple fronts, somewhat similar to UW’s defense but mostly out of a 3-3 alignment, and is adept at getting the matchups it wants with its best players.

“Everybody is going to have to block (Sutton) at some point in time and everybody’s going to have to block (Bradford) at some point in time,” Woods said. “That’s their goal.

“I think they do a good job schematically and being able to get their good players on the people they want them to be on.”

Woods put a big emphasis on pass protection during preseason camp but described it as “average” so far and said, “There’s a lot of work to be done. This game will let us know where we’re at.”

The only sack UW allowed in the first two games came when senior right guard Zac Matthias was cleanly beaten against Tennessee Tech last week. That kind of mistake against Arizona State could be a disaster.

“It’s not something that we like to have happen, that’s for sure,” Woods said. “It was really a technical error. Guy beat him inside and had a clear path to the quarterback. We’ve got to eliminate those. That can’t happen. It’s five on four, we’ve got to win.”

While the UW coaches have a pretty good idea how the veterans on the line such as Groy and junior right tackle Rob Havenstein will respond, Marz and junior center Dallas Lewallen are still unknowns.

“It’ll be a great test for guys who haven’t played a whole lot,” Groy said. “Guys like Dallas, guys like Tyler … they haven’t been on the road in environments like that and played. It’ll be great for them to see that and feel the pressure.”

Marz, the youngest starter on the line, has looked rock solid but this will be his first test against top-tier athletes.

“It’s like we tell the guys all of the time, it’s big-time college football,” Woods said. “You want to be a big-time offensive tackle, you’re going to have to go on the road, silent count and be able to protect the passer.”

While the pressure is immense on UW’s line for this game, that’s the way the linemen like it.

“I know if I was getting ready to play in this game as an offensive lineman, it would be an exciting week for me,” said UW coach Gary Andersen, a former center.

That’s the way the offensive linemen are approaching it.

“We’ve got a hard-working group here, we all kind of have that mentality,” Marz said. “We have our backs against the wall, we’re going to bond together and push forward.

“Take this challenge on and hopefully roll with it. Prepare as much as possible and watch as much film as we can and go down there and see what happens.”

coleryan Posts:11963 Followers:19
09/13/2013 04:00 PM

No. 20 Wisconsin breezed through it first two games by a combined score of 93-0 to open a season with consecutive shutouts for the first time since 1958.

Those easy wins came against Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech.

Saturday night's game against Arizona State should be nothing like the Badgers' first two against overmatched opponents.

The Sun Devils are fast, athletic and have one of the nation's most productive offenses, along with one of the best defensive linemen anywhere.

Sun Devil Stadium also will be jam packed, filled with rowdy fans all dressed in black to create a blackout effect.

It will be a big step up in competition and the Badgers are looking forward to it.

"They've spent enough time watching Arizona State and, trust me, they understand the level of competition is stepping up,'' first-year Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said. "I think they've waited for this moment. They're excited about the moment.''

The Badgers won't be the only ones facing their first real test of the season.

Arizona State had a bye the first week of the season, then ran over Sacramento State 55-0 in its first game.

The Sun Devils withstood an initial surge by Sac State's offense, then shut the Hornets down, giving coach Todd Graham the first shutout in his eight years as a head coach.

Arizona State's offense picked up where it left off last season, using its snap-it-quickly scheme to score on its first five possessions to build a 42-0 lead by halftime.

Now, it gets a whole lot tougher for the Sun Devils; Saturday's game against Wisconsin kicks off a stretch of playing four straight teams that were ranked in The Associated Press preseason Top 25.

"We think that is a great opportunity for our program and great exposure for our program,'' Graham said. "We can take our program to the next level so I am excited personally.''


Here are five things to look for when the Badgers meet the Sun Devils:

POWER VS SPEED: Wisconsin, like many teams in the Big Ten, relies on its power running game, punishing opponents up front with big offense linemen and a cache of talented running backs who can break off long runs on every touch. Arizona State fits perfectly into the Pac-12 mold of offense, relying on its athleticism and a breakneck pace, often snapping the ball as soon as the officials place it. It should be interesting to see which team can establish its style of play.

STOPPING THE RUN: Wisconsin has been one of the nation's best rushing teams for decades and its trio of backs - James White, Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement - each went over 100 yards rushing in both of the Badgers' first two games. Arizona State had a solid defense in its first season under Graham in 2012, but the big weakness was an inability to stop the run. The Sun Devils finished 81st in the country against the run, allowing 182.9 yards per game. Arizona State worked hard on its run defense during the offseason and will get a huge test against the Badgers.

WISCONSIN'S NEW D: The Badgers switched to a 3-4 defense in their first season under Andersen and the results have been good so far. Wisconsin allowed its first two opponents to cross midfield four times in 25 combined drives and the Badgers enter Saturday's game with the nation's No. 1 overall defense, allowing 162.5 yards per game. The new D will get a big test against Arizona State, though. The Sun Devils play fast and will spread Wisconsin out with a good mix of running and passing, so the Badgers will have to be sound on their assignments.

KELLY's DEVELOPMENT: Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly had a superb first season as Arizona State's starter in 2012, throwing for 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns, second-most in school history, while setting a school record by completing 67 percent of his passes. The junior had a strong debut this season, matching his own school record with five touchdown passes and accounting for 325 total yards against Sac State in a little over a half. Now he gets to see what he can do against stiffer competition.

THE HEAT: This is the desert, so the cooler temperatures of fall haven't quite kicked in. Temperatures on Saturday are expected to be in the triple digits and still about 95 degrees around kickoff time. Madison is still pretty warm this time of the year, but nothing like what it'll be like in Tempe. Wanting to get his team acclimated to the heat before Saturday's game, Andersen had the Badgers fly out a day early (on Thursday) so they could practice under similar conditions as they'll have during the game.

coleryan Posts:11963 Followers:19
09/14/2013 09:11 AM

This will be a fun game to watch as neither team has given up a point this season. Tough game for Wisky on the road in a late game on the west coast with heat playing a factor. Sun Devils in a blowout!

PICK: ARIZONA STATE -4.5