H’ok, so… Here’s the Wisconsin football team, chilling… damn, that is a great football team, you might say! Anyway, ruling out the team bus breaking down, room service poisoning the players’ food, ASU being really motivated and talented, and the heat causing cramps/exhaustion, we’re definitely going to compete in/win this football game.
REFRESHER: Article Background/Basis
Remember from last week – it’s impossible to score nine points on one play in football. Some people are going to troll me and say that you can’t score seven or eight points on one play alone. The reality is that a touchdown directly leads to an extra point or two point conversion attempt, and there is no way for the offense to score three points on the post-touchdown conversion.
In baseball, people sometimes refer to hitters as “trying to hit a five-run homer” when they take huge swings that usually end up making little-to-no contact with the ball. Similarly, this segment is going to look at the nine players on the opposing team that will either try their hardest to, or be in the best position to score nine points on a single play and upend our beloved Badgers on the upcoming Saturday.
(1) Marion Grice: Running Back, Senior. Height: 6-0 Weight: 207
Grice, #1, is everything that King Joffrey is not. He’s big, versatile, experienced, well-regarded by peers and pundits alike, and vitally important to the survival of his people/team. The senior from Houston came to ASU last season as a JUCO transfer from Blinn College. He put together a solid season while sharing time with Cameron Marshall and freshman D.J. Foster in 2012. Grice accounted for 19 total touchdowns, ran for 679 yards, had 425 receiving yards and averaged 6.6 yards per carry last season.
He only had 14 carries for 59 yards and one touchdown in the season opener, but he did have four receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown. Look for him to challenge Joe Schobert and the other linebackers in space. If Wisconsin plans to win this game, it needs to ensure that Grice doesn’t break any big gainers in the passing game – he has nine receiving touchdowns in 14 games at ASU, and the team is 5-1 when he gets at least 9 carries.
(2) Taylor Kelly: Quarterback, Junior. Height: 6-2 Weight: 205
Kelly, #10, is good quarterback that is lauded as a phenomenal leader, despite the fact that he has a feminine first and last name. Also, this dude is from IDAHO. What, Boise State didn’t want you, so you had to go to ASU? What is this, an alternate universe? Do you realize what I just typed? FFS, (for ****’s sake), was Boise already stocked full of potato-armed quarterbacks, so you had to choose another school?
Shenanigans aside, Kelly threw for 300 yards and 5 touchdowns on 23 of 31 passing last Thursday. Kelly now has 34 touchdowns and 9 interceptions in 15 career games. Six of those nine interceptions came against ranked teams last year; Kelly was also sacked 13 times in those games. Kelly is a willing and able runner, but the team was just 1-5 last year when he carried the ball more than 10 times.
(3) Jaelen Strong: Wide Receiver, Sophomore. Height: 6-4 Weight: 205
Strong, #21, is Philadelphia born and raised – no word on if the playground was where he spent most of his days. However, it’s safe to assume that he spent a lot of time there, because he’s a stud athlete and also because he went the JUCO route just like Grice. Strong’s academic eligibility was in question before fall camp, which is strange given ASU’s low academic standards. Once he was able to get through the NCAA Clearinghouse, however, Strong quickly rose to the top of the receiving depth chart.
Todd Graham runs an offense that is reminiscent of Oregon and Clemson, so Strong’s conditioning and durability may be a determining factor in his success this weekend. He’s the team’s top receiving threat by a mile, despite only being on campus for six weeks, so he needs to be on the field. Last week, the Sun Devil receiver had six receptions for a middling 58 yards with a touchdown –the Devils will need that yardage total to be higher on Saturday.
(4) Chris Coyle: Tight End, Senior. Height: 6-3 Weight: 230
Coyle, #87, had six catches in his first two years at Arizona State because Dennis Erickson’s offense did not emphasize tight ends at all. Once the new coaching staff arrived, Coyle probably wept tears of joy – Todd Graham uses his tight ends much like Paul Chryst did at Wisconsin. Last season, the then-junior set an ASU tight end record with 57 receptions. Those catches translated into 696 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Now, Coyle is a strong candidate for the Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end.
Coyle will likely have more than nine yards receiving, but if he gets anywhere close to nine receptions that could mean that the Badgers’ linebackers are failing in pass coverage.
(5) Will Sutton: Defensive Tackle, Redshirt Senior. Height: 6-1 Weight: 290
Sutton, #90, is the first player to have his own Wikipedia page in the three weeks that I’ve been writing this article. THIS GUY IS GOOD. How good? He was the Pacific-12 Defensive Player of the Year last season, and he was a first-team All-American as well. Furthermore, it seems like he’s besties with our boy Taylor Martinez, since they played together in high school and finished the 2008 high school season ranked #2 in the nation DOE.
Two numbers scare me about Sutton: 23.5 and 13. Last season, this bulldozer had 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. He gets after it, plain and simple. Wisconsin’s line has not been tested yet this year, and I think that whoever plays center will find that they’re trying to run-block a fire hydrant. Sutton’s skill combined with his versatility (4 blocked kicks in high school) makes it totally believable that he could keep nine points off the board by himself on Saturday.
(6) Alden Darby: Safety, Senior. Height: 5-11 Weight: 192
Darby, #4, is the voice of the defense and one of the few remaining players that saw action the last time these teams met in Madison. The “Juice Man” had one tackle in that game as a true freshman, and he has over 140 career tackles. Darby was a Second-Team All Pacific-12 selection last year and he is on the 2013 Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List, so I’m sure that ASU is hoping he will IMPACT the game in a positive way. Another cool thing about Darby is that he is majoring in the ever-popular “Exploratory” field. I’m sure he will be doing plenty of exploring on Saturday, as Wisconsin’s vaunted offense should have him traversing all over the field in an attempt to slow down the rabid Badger skill players.
(7) Junior Onyeali: Defensive End, Senior. Height: 6-0 Weight: 240
Onyeali, #5, had six sacks in 10 games last season. He endured a tough offseason after he was investigated for domestic dispute when Onyeali threw a 2-by-4 and broke the windshield of a woman’s car following an argument in May. No one was injured and Onyeali paid for the damages, but still… Anger problems much? Arizona State has recently had a history of talented but troubled defensive players, like Vontzae Burfict and Omar Bolden. Onyeali is the next in line, as he was the Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2010 and was named to the Rivals Freshman All-America squad, but his production has dropped off significantly after his outstanding first year.
(8) Robert Nelson: Redshirt Senior, Defensive Back. Height: 5-11 Weight: 170
Nelson, #5, only has two career starts at ASU but saw action in all 13 games last season. He sat out the 2011 season after he transferred from Louisiana-Monroe, so while he was on the scout team I’m sure he had plenty of free time to chase girls and study. Wisconsin will probably try to test him early, as he only had 16 total tackles last year and gives up plenty of size to the Badgers’ receivers and tight ends. Nelson came on late last season, though, as he had interceptions in the last two games and broke up three passes in one game against rival Arizona. However, I’m going to go ahead and guess that Joel Stave throws at him nine times on Saturday night to make him prove his worth.
(9) Todd Graham: Head Coach, Second Year. 2012 Record: 8-5 (5-4). Overall: 58-34
Ah, yes. College football’s version of Benedict Arnold. This season is his second at Arizona State, which is probably shocking to fans and administrators alike. Two of his three previous head-coaching stops were more like layovers at the airport; he spent a single year at Rice University before heading to Tulsa, where he spent four whole seasons coaching the Golden Hurricane. Four years to him is 20 to anyone else. Graham fled north to Pittsburgh in 2011, coached the Panthers for one season, and bolted to Arizona State with such speed that he probably left the Roadrunner in the dust. Paul Chryst is now cleaning up Graham’s mess in the Steel City, and Graham claims that he has found a home in the desert.
Despite Graham’s shortcomings as a person, he is a hell of a coach. Rice went from 1-10 the year before he arrived to 7-5 in his lone year there. Tulsa went 37-18 over the four years that Graham coached the Golden Hurricane, and he had his only true hiccup in his lone season at the helm in Pittsburgh, stumbling to a 6-6 record.
Here’s where Graham’s character comes out: After being informed he did not have permission to talk to ASU about its head coaching job, Graham refused to have conversations with Pittsburgh AD Steve Pederson and another administrator. Graham resigned and subsequently accepted the head coaching job at ASU. He informed the Pitt players VIA TEXT MESSAGE that he was leaving for some fun in the sun. That’s pretty bad. Hopefully the karma Gods exact some revenge on Pittsburgh’s/Paul Chryst’s behalf this weekend.
Paul’s Pompous Prediction: Wisconsin 21, Arizona State 17 (but I could see a 28-24ish game).