Game location: LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT
Spread: -3.5 (Arizona St)
Head coach: Herm Edwards
ASU has one of the most recognizable head coaches in all of college football. From his famous “you play to win the game!” rant when he was with the New York Jets, to his eight seasons as head coach in the NFL, Edwards has been around the game for decades. He first starting coaching in 1987, when some of his current players’ parents were just young children.
Overall, Edwards is one of the most respected coaches in the game. He runs a tight ship and asks a lot of his players. He currently sits at 19-13 in now his fourth season at the helm in Tempe. He has five wins against Top 25 teams and aims for a sixth when his Sun Devils travel to Provo to face #23 BYU.
2021 Season Thus Far
ASU is off to a solid 2-0 start with wins against FCS foe Southern Utah and a blowout win against UNLV, both coming at home. They displayed a dynamic running attack against the Rebels, as quarterback Jayden Daniels ran for 125 yards and running back Rachaad White ran 22 times for 90 yards and two touchdowns. They totaled 290 rushing yards on 47 carries.
Their game in Provo will be their first road test of the season. It’s tough to really know who ASU is, given their light schedule thus far. They are about to find out at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday night.
Returning starters: 20 (9 offense, 11 defense)
2021 Team Rankings
Scoring offense: 33rd
Total offense: 44th
Passing yards: 97th
Rushing yards: 15th
Scoring defense: 23rd
Total defense: 4th
Pass yards allowed: 4th
Rush yards allowed: 28th
Penalty yards: 127th
Biggest Strength- Defense
It’s certainly a boost when you can return all 11 starters from a year ago, and that’s exactly what happened to the Sun Devils’ defense. Thanks in part to the COVID redshirt rule, ASU has a ton of experience on defense and it shows. They know how to get after the quarterback, ranking fourth in the country in sack percentage.
Linebacker Darien Butler notched 2.0 sacks against UNLV. BYU will need to be wary of where he is lined up in order to protect quarterback Jaren Hall. LSU transfer Travez Moore will also be a nuisance along the defensive line.
Biggest Weakness- Passing offense
They were 98th in passing yards per game in the shortened 2020 season and are currently 98th out of the gate in 2021 as well. They have lost tons of talent, even some to the NFL, in the last few years at the receiver position. Clearly, quarterback Jayden Daniels is still working through kinks with his inexperienced receivers. They do have a ton of size in Curtis Hodges at 6-foot-8 at tight end and Johnny Wilson also checks in at 6-foot-7 at receiver. They have not been as productive as expected but those two are nightmares for any defense to try and match up with.
Best Player- Jayden Daniels, QB
It might seem weird to say that their biggest weakness is the passing game then go ahead and list their quarterback as their best player. Weird as it is, it’s true. He’s an elite athlete. He orchestrates their offense effectively, including being involved in the run game. He leads the PAC-12 in rushing yards by a quarterback with 165 yards in two games. With 18 games under his belt, he is one of the more experienced quarterbacks in the PAC-12. Even with the passing game leaving something to be desired, Daniels is a home run threat all by himself with his speed and athleticism.
How BYU Can Win
Quite frankly, what they did against Utah can beat just about anyone this side of the top 10 teams in the entire country. If you run the ball with reckless abandon, don’t turn the ball over, convert on third downs, and play with fire and attitude on defense, you can beat almost anyone.
Arizona State has a little different mentality and approach than Utah. They use elite speed and athleticism to get to the edge with their run game and on defense, they run free and fly around. However, the game plan for BYU should not change much.
A big X factor for ASU is their run game. If they can pound the ball on offense and keep BYU out of rhythm, with the Cougar offense on the sidelines, that will be a problem. BYU needs to be stout against their variety of run attacks in order to get off the field.
Jaren Hall does not need to be a Heisman candidate to win this game. Just take care of the ball against a hungry defense, run when there is space and let Tyler Allgeier eat and BYU should take care of business in a big ranked matchup at home.