Archive for: December 2012

5 Areas Where Arizona State Is Better Than Navy

Christian Petersen-Getty Images

Christian Petersen-Getty Images

The Arizona State Sun Devils (7-4, 5-4) travel to San Francisco to take on the Navy Midshipmen (8-4) on Dec. 29 at 4 pm ET, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN 2.

Both teams are going into the game on two-game winning streaks with the Sun Devils rout of the Washington State Cougars and an incredible fourth quarter comeback against in-state rival Arizona Wildcats. The Midshipmen bested Texas St. 21-10 and survived a scare from their rival—a 2-9 Army team.

While the Midshipmen have a better record coming into the game, I will break down the on-field matchups to show where the Sun Devils are better than their Navy counterparts and prove that the sum of the parts are better than the whole.

Offense: Quarterbacks

TKThe Midshipmen have run a quarterback by committee, playing four different quarterbacks this season. Granted, there were only five passing attempts by two of the signal callers, and Keenan Reynolds has seen a bulk of the plays. throwing for 884 yards and eight touchdowns with only one interception.

Conversely, the Sun Devils have gone with Taylor Kelly and have subbed in Michael Eubank mostly in goal-line situations. Kelly finished fourth in the pass-happy Pac-12 Conference with 2,772 yards and second in the conference with 8.2 yards per pass.

Kelly and Eubank have combined for 29 touchdowns including four rushing scores for Eubank, which stands head and shoulders over the nine that Reynolds and Trey Miller have thrown and the 10 that Reynolds has run in.

Defense: Sacks

sacksThe Sun Devils are second in the nation with 49 total sacks and third with 327 yards lost per sack, while Navy finished the season with 18 total sacks for 132 yards lost, good enough to finish in the top 100—barely.

Will Sutton and Carl Bradford are tied for No. 16 in the country with 10.5 sacks apiece. Senior linebacker Brandon Magee also added 6.5 sacks, and Junior Onyeali added six while Navy’s sack leader, Wes Henderson, only managed 3.5 sacks on the season.

The defense has also forced 106 tackles for a loss of 452 yards—a 8.83 average that ranks second best in the country.

Defense: Interceptions

The Sun Devils have 20 total interceptions on the season, good enough for fourth-best in the FBS including a sixth-best three touchdowns off interceptions. Their 389 interception yards puts them in fourth in the nation, and Alden Darby has a 70-yard pick-six against the USC Trojans.

Navy also squeaks into the top 100 with eight interceptions for 60 yards and two touchdowns.

The Sun Devils’ Keelan Johnson leads the team with five interceptions, which ties him for ninth-best in the country. Alden Darby’s 154 interception yards is enough to place fourth in the country.

Navy totaled eight interceptions on the year with their team leader, Mark Warren, finishing the regular season with three interceptions and a touchdown.

Offense: Receiving Corps

The Sun Devils’ 29 receiving touchdowns are tied for 16th-best in the country with over 3,100 total yards and over 258 yards per game.

Navy comes into the post season with only 1,325 total yards for a paltry 110 yards per game. Although they average two yards more per reception, their nine receiving touchdowns pale in comparison.

Arizona State tight end Chris Coyle is approaching two school records at a school that is known as “Tight End U.” With three more receptions and one more touchdown, Coyle will set the record for most receptions and touchdowns in a season by a tight end at Arizona State. He is currently third in the nation for receptions per game by a tight end with 4.65 and yards per game with 58.09.

Junior transfer running back Marion Grice leads the nation in receiving touchdowns by a running back with eight and ranks 15th in total touchdowns with 17.

Special Teams

hubnerSenior punter Josh Hubner finished the regular season 17th in the nation in pinning the ball within the 20-yard line with 24. His average of 45.3 yards per punt ranks him fifth in the nation while averaging a mere 7.2 yards per punt return.

Place kicker Alex Garoutte has hit 51 straight PATs going perfect on the season and has only missed once in his career.

Kickoff returner Rashad Ross also achieved perfection this season by being one of only 21 players to return a kickoff for 100 yards.

Punt returner Jamal Miles has 183 total punt return yards, including a 25-yard return. He is currently ranked as the most prolific punt returner in school history.

Arizona State Basketball: Can Sun Devils Maintain Red-Hot Start?

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Arizona State Basketball improved their record to 7-1 on Wednesday night and are looking for their first 8-1 start in 38 years. The Sun Devils were led by freshman phenom Jahii Carson’s 20 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Carson, who had been fighting an illness the past two games, came out on fire against the Hartford Hawks, hitting four of the first eight points and dishing the assist on the other four.

The Hawks were sharp-shooters from long range, hitting their first three baskets from beyond the arc. They continued their barrage hitting 5-of-9 from three-point territory taking a 24-19 lead.

This was frustrating for the Sun Devils, who were shooting an incredible 73 percent from the field and still trailing by five. The Sun Devils would recoup and go on a 14-4 run to finish the half on 63 percent shooting and leading only by one, 36-35.

The second half was the Eric Jacobsen show. Having only played five minutes in the first half and scoring three points in that span, the 6’10” center from Hamilton High School in Chandler would go on to have a career night.

Starting center Jordan Bachynski got an early foul, and missed a layup within the first five minutes of the second half. Jacobsen subbed in at 14:50 and never checked back out. He finished with a career-high 16 points, and added six rebounds to his total.

Senior Carrick Felix finished with a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, his second in his career in as many tries. He added three blocks, two steals and two assists to his numbers.

Stat Corner

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After eight games, here are the updated stats for the Sun Devils.

  • Jahii Carson leads all players in:
    • Total Points—146
    • Points Per Game—18.3 average (Fifth in Conference)
    • Assists—43 (Second in Conference)
    • Free Throws Made—45 (Second in Conference)
    • Minutes Per Game—34.4 average
  • Carrick Felix leads all players with:
    • Field Goal Percentage—.590 percent (Third in Conference)
    • Field Goals Made—49 (Fourth in Conference)
    • Three-Point Percentage—.448 percent (Fifth in Conference)
    • Total steals—16 (Fifth in Conference)
  • Jonathan Gilling leads all players in:
    • Total Rebounds—63
    • Rebounds Per Game—7.9 average
    • Three-Point Shots Made—18 (Third in Conference)
  •  Jordan Bachynski leads all players in:
    • Total Blocks—38 (Second in Nation)
    • Blocks Per Game—4.75 average (Second in Nation)
  • Evan Gordon leads all players with:
    • Free Throw Percentage—.767 percent

Next Up

The Sun Devils take on the 7-2 Cal State Northridge Matadors. Their two losses were to the UCLA Bruins of the Pac-12, and to Brigham Young out of the West Coast Conference.

The Matadors are coming off a 120-point showing over Vanguard University, a small, Christian university in nearby Costa Mesa that competes in the NAIA.

They currently lead the Big West Conference and average 81.2 points per game, good enough for 15th best in the nation. They are led by sophomore point guard, Stephan Hicks with 18.1 points per game and eight rebounds per game.

Where: Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe, Ariz.

When: Saturday, Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. ET

Watch: Pac-12 Network

Listen: 620-AM in the metro Phoenix area or ASU All Access on the web.

Prediction

I expect the Sun Devils will start off quickly in this game at home, with great efforts from Jahii Carson. Look for big man Jordan Bachynski to return to previous form.

I foresee another big game for senior Carrick Felix who has been absolutely on fire the past five games—averaging 18.8 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game. Evan Gordon will continue his hot hand and contribute with double-digit points

Cal State Northridge 64, Arizona State 79 

Power Ranking the Sun Devils’ Top Football Performances of 2012

Photo courtesy of ASU Athletics

Photo courtesy of ASU Athletics

 

Arizona State Football had a rough patch losing four straight to ranked teams in the Pac-12 Conference. Even with the losses, they posted flashes of brilliance in games that could have ended better for the Sun Devils.

I have compiled a comprehensive list of the best plays and performances of the 2012 season from the Arizona State University Sun Devils football team.

Prepare yourself for some hard hits, fabulous footwork and the best from Todd Graham’s debut season.

Week 1: Brandon Magee’s Pick 6

Magee_INTIn his first game back from a year-long hiatus due to injury, Brandon Magee intercepted Northern Arizona’s Chase Cartwright in the second quarter and ran it back 45 yards for the touchdown.

The Sun Devils went on to rout the Lumberjacks 63-6 as three running backs scored rushing touchdowns including three from Marion Grice, two from Cameron Marshall and one from D.J. Foster for his first-career touchdown.

Week 2: Michael Eubank’s 3 Touchdowns

Coming in for a couple drives in the second quarter, Arizona State backup quarterback Michael Eubank connected twice with tight end Chris Coyle to put the Sun Devils up 28-7 going into the half. He finished the game with a perfect 5-of-5 for 69 yards.

He came in late in the game and scampered for a seven yard touchdown sealing the victory at 45-14. He finished with seven carries for 36 yards.

Week 3: D.J. Foster’s Scramble

D.J. Foster, Matt HochWith the Sun Devils coming out flat in Columbia, they needed a boost, a breath of fresh air. That boost came from freshman running back D.J. Foster with two minutes and 40 seconds remaining in the first half with Arizona State trailing 17-0.

Foster breaks through the line, shakes off a defender and turns on the jets for a 33-yard touchdown.

Week 4: Taylor Kelly’s 326 Yards and 3 TD’s

Quarterback Taylor Kelly threw for two touchdowns in the first quarter and added a third just before halftime against the Utah Utes as the Sun Devils cruised to a 37-7 victory in week four.

Kelly set his career-high with 326 yards passing and three touchdowns and rushed for 19 yards as well. He averaged 12.5 yards per completion on 19-of-25 passing.

Week 5: Defensive Domination

Will Sutton had three sacks for 24 yards, eight tackles including four for a loss of 27 yards and a forced fumble.

Junior Onyeali had two sacks for 16 yards and three tackles including two for a loss of 16 yards.

Carl Bradford had a six-yard sack and seven tackles.

Alden Darby had four tackles and a fumble recovery.

Brandon Magee had eight tackles and a half-sack with Davon Coleman for four yards.

Keelan Johnson had nine total tackles.

Week 6: Rashad Ross 100-Yard Kickoff Return

rashadThis is the way that every second half should start.

After leading only 20-17 at halftime against the Colorado Buffaloes, Rashad Ross started the scoring spree on the opening kickoff of the second half that led to 31 straight points for Arizona State en route to a 51-17 thrashing.

Quarterback Taylor Kelly threw for a career-high five touchdowns on 308 yards passing, but it was the kickoff return that sparked the game.

Week 7: Will Sutton’s Forced Fumble

Arizona State was 5-1 going into this game vs. the No. 3 Oregon Ducks and they were pumped.

The stadium was blacked out and the Sun Devils were also decked out in all black including the first-ever appearance of the gold outlined pitchfork on black matte helmets.

The Sun Devils all-everything defensive tackle Will Sutton was smelling blood and on the Ducks second play from scrimmage, he broke up the hand-off from Marcus Mariota to Kenjon Barner allowing Davon Coleman to recover the football.

Quarterback Taylor Kelly struck immediately hitting Kevin Ozier for the 28-yard touchdown to shock the Oregon Ducks and electrify the Sun Devil crowd.

Week 8: Marion Grice’s 3rd 3-Touchdown Game

Arizona State started big in this game scoring the first 14 points before falling behind 20-17 at the half.

This shootout saw over a thousand yards of total offense as both Taylor Kelly and UCLA freshman signal caller Brett Hundley threw four touchdowns apiece.

The superstar of the game was Marion Grice who had 117 total yards (69 receiving and 48 rushing) and scored three touchdowns (two receiving and one rushing.)

This was Grice’s third of four three-touchdown games on the season.

Week 9: Sutton and Onyeali Shake Up Cody Vaz

sutton_vazOregon State quarterback Cody Vaz heard all about Arizona State’s defensive powerhouse Will Sutton returning from injury this week.

You can see how deathly afraid he was on this third down play on the Beavers’ opening drive when he basically drops the ball when he sees Sutton bearing down on him. Thankfully, Junior Onyeali was there to pick up the present left by Vaz to give the Sun Devils the early 7-0 lead.

Week 10: Alden Darby’s Pick 6

When Alden Darby picked off Matt Barkley early in the second quarter and ran it back 70 yards for the touchdown, there was much rejoicing.

The Sun Devils had lost three straight and were leading the No.19 team in the country. Little did they know that they would only manage three more points in the remaining 41 minutes of the game.

It was a definite high point in an otherwise disappointing game.

Week 11: The Dynamic Duo of Kelly and Eubank

The game was a blowout from the get-go with Arizona State securing the shut-out until the final minute of the game.

Quarterbacks Taylor Kelly threw for four touchdowns while Michael Eubank threw for one and also pushed one in from the 1-yard line.

The combination of the two sold signal callers provided all the scoring after the initial field goal.

Week 12 Part 1: Marion Grice

Marion Grice scored three time in his first Territorial Cup in Tucson. He finished with a career-high rushing night with 156 yards on 18 carries. He finally got Arizona State on the board with 10 minutes left in the half on this 52-yard run from scrimmage.

Week 12 Part 2: Kevin Ayers Blocked Punt

With the scored knotted at 27 apiece and the Arizona Wildcats punting from deep in their own territory, Kevin Ayers came through on the biggest play of his career. This led to a Cameron Marshall 8-yard touchdown to put the Sun Devils up 34-27.

Week 12 Part 3: Robert Nelson Near Pick 6

nelsonWith 3:30 remaining in the game and Arizona trailing by seven, Matt Scott threw another ill-advised pass on 4th-and-6 that was tipped right into the waiting hands of Robert Nelson.

Nelson fought off several would-be tacklers and got a crucial block from Davon Coleman on quarterback Scott before finally being brought down at the Arizona 1-yard line. Michael Eubank pushed another touchdown in from there.

It is only fitting that the Sun Devils have the biggest game when it truly mattered. This team has Sun Devil Nation excited for the future and I hope to see many more great plays in San Francisco for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 29 and for many years to come.

Arizona Basketball: Early-Season Grades for the Wildcats

Casey Sapio-USA Today Sports

Casey Sapio-USA Today Sports

The Arizona Wildcats are the only undefeated team left in the Pac-12.

After surviving one of the ugliest games that I have seen in this short season, they need a time out and a serious talking-to if they want to stay that way.

The No. 8 Wildcats turned the ball over a season-high 27 times last night and struggled in shooting hitting a sparse 7-of-20 from the field and 9-of-16 from the charity stripe in the first half.

Not all games have been this ugly, but they have all ended with a W. Here are my early season grades for all the integral parts of the Wildcat machine.

The Offense

The Wildcats have five freshman, with three of them seeing starting time and two averaging 20-plus minutes a game.

They are averaging 81.5 points per game, which ranks them top in the conference and 15th in the country.

Arizona also leads the conference in field goals, shooting on average 26.3-of-51.3 for a .513 percent, which places them at No. 6 in the nation.

A healthy .417 percent from the three-point line lands them as the best in the conference and 11th in the country.

They spread the ball around evenly with no clear-cut go-to shooter. They have three players averaging double figures and two others over nine points per game.

As a whole, this Wildcats offense is solid, and even though they have five players in double digits this season in turnovers, they are doing quite well.

Grade: A-

The Defense

zeusOn the flip side of having a great offense is having a great defense, or as Arizona calls it—just a defense.

With so many big men on the court for the Wildcats, you would think that they would do better than 127th in the country in average rebounds per game.

They are averaging 7.86 steals per game, which is third-best in the conference but doesn’t crack the top 100 in the nation.

Their 4.33 blocks per game come in as the fourth-best in the conference and tied for 91st in the country.

They lead the conference in fewest fouls with only 99, tied for 48th fewest out of 347 schools.

Kalb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley are the only ones pulling down any decent numbers in rebounding, and Nick Johnson is the only player in double-digit steals.

Plenty of room for improvement here.

Grade: C

Nick Johnson

The 6’3″ guard from Gilbert, Ariz. is quietly leading this Wildcat team in his sophomore season. Averaging 13.7 points per game, he trails 14 other players in the conference alone.

He leads the team in assists with 25 and steals with 14. He ranks seventh and fifth in the conference respectively.

A solid point guard who dishes out half as many shots as he takes shows promise, and he will make a big name for himself this year at the helm of this quality team.

He needs to improve on his free throw shooting though, as he is only hitting 15-of-22 for a .682 percentage.

Grade: B  

Solomon Hill

solomonThe three-year letterman is entering his senior season hoping to improve his draft prospects to join the myriad Arizona players receiving an NBA paycheck.

He is second on the team in scoring behind Nick Johnson with 79 total points averaging 13.2 per game. This ranks him at No. 17 in the conference, and his .479 field goal percentage is abysmal.

He shines beyond the arc, hitting half of the shots he takes, which leads the conference and ranks 66th-best in the country.

His .792 percentage from the free-throw line is quite pedestrian for such a prolific shooter from downtown.

He will need to pick up his game if he wants to hear his name come NBA draft day.

Grade: B- 

Mark Lyons

The senior transfer from Xavier University is fitting in nicely for coach Sean Miller and the Arizona Wildcats.

The all-around player is in the top four in every category on the team save for field goal percentage. He isn’t flashy, he just puts his nose to the grindstone and goes to work.

Unfortunately for Lyons, he can get a little too aggressive and has trouble handling the ball, leading the team in turnovers by a large margin with 18.

I really like what I have seen so far from him as a jack-of-all-trades; the only problem is that he is the proverbial master of none.

Grade: B 

Kaleb Tarczewski

kalebThe big 7-footer that they call “Zeus” is making a big splash in his first six games in a Wildcat uniform. The 225 lb. center from Claremont, New Hampshire has started all six games and has cemented himself in the lineup for the foreseeable future.

His 41 total rebounds and 14 offensive lead the team, as does his 6.8 rebounds per game. He is also second on the team in blocks with eight, and in field goals he is hitting 13-of-22 for .591 percent.

Being fresh out of high school and thrust into one of the most storied basketball programs can be taxing, but Tarczewski has done well adjusting to the jump. After he has a couple more games under his belt, I see him climbing the rankings in all defensive categories.

He needs to improve on his free throw shooting and take more shots under the basket once he grabs those rebounds. He has only taken 22 shots on the season, while other big men have two or three times that amount.

Grade: B- 

Brandon Ashley

Brandon Ashley has started the last four games after coming off the bench to relieve fellow freshman Grant Jerrett.

He made quite a point in his first start against Long Beach State on Nov. 19 with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

The 6’8″, 235-lb freshman from San Francisco hasn’t looked back since. He leads the team with nine blocks, which is sixth-best in the conference, and is second on the team with 39 total rebounds, averaging 6.5 per game.

There is tremendous upside with the freshman, who averages just under 10 points per game This forward can take his team deep into the postseason if he continues to have games like his first.

Grade: B+

The Sixth Man

parromNot even gunshot wounds and broken bones can keep this three-year letterman off the court. He has the grit and tenacity to play through adversity, and Tuesday night’s second half showing was a perfect example of how Kevin Parrom provides the much-needed spark off the bench.

He is tied with Mark Lyons for best three-point percentage on the team, as well as the conference, hitting 10-of-20. He has only missed once from the charity stripe, and his .889 percentage is fourth-best in the conference.

His .613 field goal percentage is also tops on team, hitting 19-of-31 from the field. He is third on the team with 28 rebounds, and has 15 assists and two steals to boot.

Parrom is a true warrior for Sean Miller who brings it time and time again.

Grade: A 

The Bench

Other than the aforementioned Kevin Parrom, the Arizona bench is under-performing.

Highly touted forward Grant Jerrett started the first two games and came out flat. He is only shooting 11-of-27 for a paltry .407 percent and doesn’t get any better from three-point territory, hitting 5-of-11 for a .455 percentage. With Jerrett averaging 5.5 points per game and 3.7 rebounds per game, these are not the numbers that Sean Miller was hoping for.

Junior guard Jordin Mayes and sophomore forward Angelo Chol are a combined 18-of-35 from the field and 10-of-17 from the free throw line. They are both averaging under five points per game and are prone to picking up fouls.

Because Parrom is such a stud off the bench and I believe Jerrett will wake up eventually, I think this bench will be serviceable down the stretch.

Grade: C

Sean Miller

smillerSean Miller has an intensity that rivals shooting stars, he demands perfection and will let you know when he doesn’t get it.

He has brought this team back to national prominence after the departure of legendary coach, Lute Olson. His 2012 recruiting class was widely regarded as one of the best in the nation and his players are performing well.

After a heart-breaking loss in the Pac-12 Championship Game last season to Colorado, Sean Miller is poised to return to the title game and take what he feels is rightfully his.

Grade: A  

Final Grade

Despite Tuesday night’s ugly win at home against Southern Mississippi, this Arizona Wildcats team is the best we have seen in a while.

The starting five of Johnson, Hill, Tarczewski, Lyons and Ashley, coupled with the superb bench play of Kevin Parrom, are going to be tough to beat.

The team dynamic is such that each player viewed separately is missing a couple things here and there, but together, this team is undeniably great.

Look for the Wildcats to dominate the Pac-12 Conference and make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament come March.

Grade: A-

Predicting Outcomes of Every Pac-12 Bowl Game

P-12 Champ

Ezra Shaw-Getty Images

Pac-12 Football is finally getting the recognition it deserves.

They have eight bowl-eligible teams and although the favorite Oregon Ducks are not playing for the National Championship for the second time in three years, they are returning to Glendale, Ariz. This time the No. 4 Ducks will be playing in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl where they will take on the No. 5 Kansas St. Wildcats.

With two teams in top six in the final BCS rankings and four teams in the top 17, the Pac-12 is looking to dominate the bowl season as USC and Arizona State both received votes in the USA Today/Coaches Poll.

Conference Championship

pac champAs unbelievable as it sounds, it was the UCLA Bruins that made a return trip to the Pac-12 Championship Game, not the Oregon Ducks.

Coach David Shaw took his 10-2 (8-1) Stanford Cardinal to the program’s first Conference Championship Game on Nov. 30 against the Bruins and beat them twice in a week to secure the Rose Bowl appearance and conference title.

After the final week of the regular season and Championship weekend, my original projections failed miserably. I am here now to set the record straight and give you everything that you need to know to be prepped for the bowl games from the “Conference of Champions.”

Gildan New Mexico Bowl

  • When: Dec. 15, 2012
  • When: 1 p.m. EST
  • Where: University Stadium, Albuquerque, N.M.

In the battle of two 7-5 teams, the Arizona Wildcats take on the Nevada Wolfpack out of the Mountain West Conference. The real story is two of the top four rushers in the country will battle it out for ground supremacy.

Nevada started the season 6-1 but went on to lose four of their next five finishing the season with a disappointing home loss to the No. 20 Boise St. Broncos.

The Wolfpack have the nation’s No. 14 offense with 6,034 yards on the season and average 37 points per game. They have the 10th best rushing offense and the fourth best rusher in Stefphon Jefferson. Jefferson has accumulated 1,703 yards on 341 attempts and his 22 touchdowns rank him tied for second in the country.

The Arizona Wildcats know a thing or two about rushing royalty with the nation’s No. 2 rusher in Ka’Deem Carey. Carey’s 1,757 yards on 275 attempts garners him a 6.4 yard average, nearly two yards better than his adversary who averages only five yards per carry. His 20 touchdowns also rank him at seventh in the country.

That is where the positives ends for both teams.The Wolfpack and the Wildcats are pretty awful on defense, both giving up over 30 points a game.

Prediction: Nevada 35, Arizona 42

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

super carl

  • When: Dec. 29, 2012
  • When: 4 p.m. EST
  • Where: AT&T Park, San Francisco, Calif.

This will be an aerial spectacular much like the days when Barry Bonds played there. Taylor Kelly, the Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback is third in the Pac-12 with a passer rating of 153.3 and a completion percentage of 65.9 percent.

The Navy Midshipmen, who are independent have given up 41 points to Troy and 50 points to Notre Dame in the first game of the season in Ireland.

The MIdshipmen’s 3,140 rushing yards ranks them eighth in the nation and their average 285.5 per game puts them at sixth. Their triple-threat option is something new that the Sun Devils haven’t played against and have struggled containing the run in the past.

On the defensive side for Arizona State, they are stacked. Their 49 sacks and 20 interceptions are second and fourth in the country, respectively, and their three touchdowns have them tied for sixth in the nation.

Pac-12 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton along with Keelan Johnson, Brandon Magee, Alden Darby and Osahon Irabor make this defense one of the best in the country.

Prediction: Navy 14, Arizona State 42

MAACO Las Vegas Bowl

  • When: Dec. 22, 2012
  • When: 3:30 p.m. EST
  • Where: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nev.

Chris Petersen makes a return engagement to the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl after finishing 10-2 (7-1) in the Mountain West. He will face the up and down Washington Huskies with a much less attractive record of 7-5 (5-4) in the Pac-12.

Boise St. started the year with a loss to preseason No. 13 Michigan State. The Broncos rebounded and won their next seven games and 10 of the next 11. Truth be told, with their week conference schedule and their loss at home to San Diego State, the Broncos were lucky to even be invited back to Sin City.

Giving up under 15 points a game ranks them sixth in the country but then again, look at who they played.They finished the year with 34 sacks and 17 interceptions, tied with Notre Dame in both categories.

The roller-coaster ride that is the Washington Huskies will be taking its show on the road to the Las Vegas Bowl, but nobody knows which Husky team will show up, including Steve Sarkisian.

The fourth year coach led his team to victories over top ranked teams Stanford and Oregon St. yet lost to in-state rival Washington State Cougars who had lost eight straight in the conference.

Although Boise St. plays well against the likes of Wyoming and New Mexico, the Huskies will man up and bring their ‘A’ game to make up for the embarrassment that was the Apple Cup.

Prediction: Washington 31, Boise St. 24

Hyundai Sun Bowl

marqise

  • When: Dec. 31, 2012
  • When: 2 p.m. EST
  • Where: Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas

Matt Barkley has had a tough senior season, but his USC Trojans have had arguably their most disappointing season in their storied history.

Entering the year as the preseason No. 1 team, Barkley and the Trojans had a lot of people to impress to prove that they deserved the ranking.

They handily beat Hawaii and Syracuse but dropped to No. 2 without warning, then came the unthinkable—a loss to open up conference play to then No. 21 Stanford. They won their next four games before the wheels came off, losing four of their final five games.

Although Barkley completed 36 touchdown passes, fourth best in the country, he will be remembered for the dreadful end of his 2012 season. After suffering an injury against the UCLA Bruins, Barkley is expected to play in the Sun Bowl.

The best quarterbacks always have the best targets, the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, Marqise Lee was a true standout for the Trojans. He led the FBS with 112 receptions and his 1,680 yards were the second most receiving yards with his 14 touchdowns ranking third.

Georgia Tech finished third in the ACC Coastal division and still went to the ACC Championship game with a 6-6 record. Much like the UCLA Bruins last year, the Yellow Jackets backed into the conference championship due to better teams serving out post season suspensions.

Lane Kiffin will also make this realization and stomp on the Yellow Jackets as they are still stinging from the defeat from their cross-town rival weeks ago.

Prediction: USC 42, Georgia Tech 10

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl

  • When: Dec. 27, 2012
  • When: 9:45 p.m. EST
  • Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif.

The UCLA Bruins needed a change after last year’s embarrassing season. With a new head coach in Jim Mora Jr. and a freshman quarterback in Brett Hundley, the Bruins came alive.

They won their first three games including No. 16 Nebraska. They suffered tough losses to Oregon St. and a bad Cal team. After five straight wins, including two ranked teams in Arizona and USC, they lost their season finale to Stanford. Six days later, they lost to Stanford again at the Pac-12 Championship game.

At 9-4 (6-3), they are glad to get the invitation to the Holiday Bowl, just not psyched about their opponent.

The hottest team in the country right now is the Baylor Bears. They started the season 4-5 including losses to No. 9 West Virginia, No. 25 Texas and No. 12 Oklahoma.

With a daunting schedule ahead off them including the No.1 team in the country, Kansas State and a surging Oklahoma St., the Bears would be lucky to even get to be bowl eligible. They woke up, won out and went from being an afterthought to the most feared team in the country.

Their explosive offense has scored over 40 points four times, 50 or more four times and 63 points in a shootout loss to West Virginia.

UCLA badly needs a win to validate their season, but it won’t happen against this hot Baylor team.

Prediction: Baylor 49, UCLA 42

Valero Alamo Bowl

beavs

  • When: Dec. 29, 2012
  • When: 6:45 p.m. EST
  • Where: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas

The Oregon St. Beavers put on a scoring clinic in their final game of the season polishing off Nicholls St. 77-3.

Perhaps the biggest surprise to come out of the Pac-12 this season, the Beavers were definitely fun to watch. They started the season with six straight victories including marquee wins against No. 13 Wisconsin and No. 19 UCLA. Then the road got bumpy.

The No. 15 Beavers couldn’t string together two wins after losing to Washington and No. 5 Stanford.

The quarterback duo of Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion threw for nearly 3,800 yards and and over 316 yards per game—both ranked at 15th best in the nation.

The No. 23 Texas Longhorns are fresh off two straight defeats to Texas Christian and No. 5 Kansas St. They are looking to take out their frustrations on somebody and the Oregon St. Beavers are next in line.

Prior to the losses, the Longhorns were 8-2 including a win over then No. 18 Texas Tech. They had lost two straight games earlier in the season to West Virginia and were decimated by Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry, 63-21.

Although Texas averages over 36 points per game, they also give up nearly 30 per game. The potent Oregon St. passing game will wreak havoc on the Longhorn secondary and not look back.

The Beavers defense is stout, giving up less than 20 points per game while scoring 33 points per game. This will be a close matchup at first, but Riley’s promise of In-N-Out Burger will get the team motivated for a big victory deep in the heart of Texas.

Prediction: Texas 28, Oregon State 34

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

  • When: Jan. 3, 2013
  • When: 8:30 p.m. EST
  • Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

You can’t say enough about the stellar offense of the Oregon Ducks. With just over 6,600 yards on the year and averaging over 550 yards of offense per game, they rank fourth in the country.

They rank fifth in total rushing yards and third in the country with 323.3 rushing yards per game. All those yards must lead to points and they are second in the country with 610 total points and average 50.8 points per game!

Kenjon Barner’s 21 touchdowns are good enough to tie him for fourth most in the country and his 1,624 yards ranks him seventh. His 132 total points on the season are tied with Kansas St. quarterback, Collin Klein.

Speaking of Collin Klein, he was named the 2012 Johnny Unitas Gold Arm Award winner and is a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

The former No.1 team in the country won 10 straight before they were shocked and shellacked by the Baylor Bears in Waco, 52-24. They rebounded with a big 42-24 win over Texas.

This bowl is looking to be the best bowl game not titled the National Championship pitting two 11-1 teams and both teams ranked in the Top Five in the final BCS poll.

The teams are formidable opponents and have high-scoring offenses with stingy defenses. This will be a shoot-out for the ages with the Ducks pulling away in the end.

Prediction: Oregon 49, Kansas State 41

Rose Bowl Presented by Vizio

stan

  • When: Jan. 1, 2013
  • When: 5 p.m. EST
  • Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

When the Wisconsin Badgers lost three of their last four regular season games, the Rose Bowl was the farthest thing from their minds. Fortunately for the Badgers, both Ohio St. and Penn St. are serving postseason suspensions and they found themselves in the Big Ten Championship Game.

This looked to be a mismatch as the Badgers were 7-5 (4-4) in conference and going up against the Nebraska Cornhuskers who were 10-2 (7-1). The mismatch went the other way as running back Montee Ball led the Badgers to a 70-31 rout of the Huskers.

The Stanford Cardinal, winners of the Pac-12 have won seven straight after losing a heart-breaker in overtime to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Cardinal were shocked in Week 4 in Seattle and were written off for all intents and purposes.

The Cardinal’s final three games came against ranked teams including the then No. 2 Oregon Ducks at Autzen. They also beat a surging UCLA Bruins team twice in six days to earn their Rose Bowl berth.

Stanford’s defense is what Oregon’s offense is—killer. They lead the nation in sacks with 56, are second in the country in yards lost due to sacks and their four defensive touchdowns are third best. They give up less than 18 points a game and held the great Oregon offense to a scant 14 points.

They are not a high-powered offense, but they always find the way to win, and I don’t see them having any problem against Wisconsin in the “Grand-Daddy of Them All.”

Prediction: Stanford 27, Wisconsin 14

Final Count 7-1

This is the year of the Pac-12, with the exception of a truly scary Baylor Bears team, the Pac-12 will clean up in their bowls and bring redemption to the Conference of Champions.

Long gone will be the days of the east coast bias, the SEC domination talks and the token trip out west by the ESPN College GameDay crew.

This is the beginning of something truly great for the conference and for all of college football.

We just need to work on getting the Pac-12 Network on DirecTV now.

Arizona State Basketball vs. Hartford: Start Time, TV Info, Preview and More

evan gordon

Evan Gordon
Rick Scuteri-USA Today Sports

Arizona State’s Evan Gordon had a career-high 29 points and led the 5-1 Sun Devils to a 90-70 win over the Sacramento State Hornets Saturday night in front of 5,007 fans in Wells Fargo Arena.

Football coach Todd Graham and members of the Arizona State football team were in attendance and showed off the prized Territorial Cup to all in attendance.

The next game for the Sun Devils is against the 4-3 Hartford Hawks of the America East Conference, here is the skinny:

Where: Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe, Ariz.

When: Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 8:30 p.m. ET

Watch: Pac-12 Network

Listen: 620-AM in the metro Phoenix area or ASU All Access on the web.

The Hawks have a verified stud in sophomore Mark Nwakamma. Nwakamma, the America East Player of the Week is blossoming nicely after being named to the America East All-Rookie team last season.

The 6’6″ forward currently leads the team in scoring, rebounds and is second in assists behind point guard Yolonzo Moore II.

The Hawks are riding a three-game winning streak coming into Wednesday’s matchup in the desert. This is the first of three trips out west as they visit Houston, Texas next week to take on the Rice Owls and Boulder, Colorado later in the month to take on the reigning Pac-12 Champion Colorado Buffaloes.

The Sun Devils are off to their fourth 6-1 start in the past 20 years and will try to hit 7-1 for the fifth time since they joined the Pac-10 in 1978, 35 years ago.

One of the biggest surprises in the Pac-12 this year, the Sun Devils were predicted to finish anywhere from eighth to 12th from the so-called experts. Granted, their non-conference schedule is light and they lost to the only ranked team they played, but they hung in there a lot better than most would have imagined.

Freshman phenom Jahii Carson scored his career-high 30 points that game and never backed down.

They will have a tougher time once they enter conference play, but the light scheduling is a great morale booster and confidence builder.

Looking around the Pac-12 at other teams that have lost to lesser non-conference opponents, i.e. UCLA, Washington, Stanford, I would venture to say that Arizona State is going to have a great season down the stretch.

STAT CORNER 

Jahii

Jahii Carson
Rick Scuteri-USAToday Sports

  • Points:
    • Jahii Carson —126 total, 18.0 average
    • Fifth in Pac-12
  • Assists:
    • Jahii Carson —36 total, 5.1 average
    • Third in Pac-12
  • Rebounds:
    • Jonathan Gilling —60 total, 8.6 average
    • Fifth in Pac-12
  • Blocks:
    • Jordan Bachynski —35 total, 5.0 average
    • 2nd best in the nation
Carrick FelixRick Scuteri - USA Today Sports

Carrick Felix
Rick Scuteri – USA Today Sports

 

  • Steals:
    • Carrick Felix —14 total, 2.0 average
    • Evan Gordon —14 total, 2.0 average
    • Fourth in Pac-12
  • Field Goal Pct:
    • Carrick Felix —44-of-75 for .587
    • Fourth in Pac-12
  • Three-Point Pct:
    • Carrick Felix —12-of-27 for .444
    • Seventh in Pac-12
  • Free Throw Pct:
    • Evan Gordon —20-of-26 for .769
    • 15th in the Pac-12

This season is shaping up nicely for Herb Sendek and the Sun Devils. Two players have cracked the top 10 in scoring since Sendek took the helm in 2006.

The top five spots are held by two current NBA players in James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph, so it is safe to say that that is hallowed ground. Freshman phenom Jahii Carson scored 30 vs. Creighton on Nov. 24 for the sixth spot and Evan Gordon’s 29 on Dec. 1 ranks eighth.

The Sun Devils 46 first-half points was the second highest first half on the season and the fourth game with 40+ points raising their first half average from 27.7 to 38.3—an amazing improvement.

THE INDUSTRY BUZZ

Acclaimed sports writer Seth Davis wrote in his Fresh Takes about Jahii Carson for SI.com and had this to say about the redshirt freshman:

Carson stands just 5-foot-10, 175-pounds, so he needs a high-octane offense to be effective. Sendek has made him feel right at home. Heading into Wednesday’s game, Jahii was ranked second in the Pac-12 in scoring (21.0 ppg), third in assists (5.0) and eighth in three-point percentage (46.2). Carson also has a bevy of fleet-footed running mates in 6-2 senior guard Chris Colvin, 6-1 junior guard Evan Gordon, and 6-6 senior swingman Carrick Felix. “My teammates have bought into this idea as well,” Carson says. “People say that ASU is a slowdown basketball team, but that’s definitely something we’d like to change.”

Doug Haller who covers Arizona State Football and Basketball for the Arizona Republic likes the play of senior forward Carrick Felix who was recently named Pac-12 Player of the Week:

But flying just under the radar —although over the rim —is Felix, a 6-foot-6 wing who quietly has gotten off to a strong start. In Friday’s win over Arkansas, he scored a career-high 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting, a performance coaches think might have been his best at ASU. The next night, Felix had 17 points and five rebounds in the Creighton loss.

 

Jack MacGruder of Fox Sports Arizona has also taken notice of Carrick Felix and his change in philosophy and how he plays the game:

A senior forward, Felix made it a priority to be more aggressive this season, but he also has found that good things come to those who are patient.

“I am just playing slow and playing my game, waiting for things to come to me,” he said. “When you have a point guard like Jahii Carson, he is finding me at good spots, and so is everybody else. We have played together for awhile now. I guess you can say we’ve been used to each other.”

Prediction

I can see that this game may be taken lightly by Sendek’s squad, and that would be a huge mistake. The Sun Devils need to start off quick and build up a comfortable lead early in the game.

The fast play of Carson, Felix and Gordon should have no problem hitting their shots early on. Strong defensive play by Gilling and Bachynski will solidify the lead and I predict the Devils will have another 40-point first half in their future.

Coming out of the intermission, the Devils need to continue to wear down the Hawks with their fast play and they will have no problem getting the W at home.

Hartford 61, Arizona State 83

 

Arizona State Football: 10 Keys to Victory for the Sun Devils over Navy

Mark J. Rebilas-USA Today Sports

Mark J. Rebilas-USA Today Sports

Arizona State Football Vice President for University Athletics Steve Patterson got his wish. He told KTAR-620 AM last Tuesday that because of the issue with finals week from Dec. 13-19, the Gildan New Mexico Bowl was his least favorite option stating “We just can’t go there.”

The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl selected the 7-5 Arizona State Sun Devils to face the 7-4 Navy Midshipmen in Dec. 29 at 4pm ET in AT&T Park. The Midshipmen, an independent team, still have to play the traditional Army-Navy game this weekend and have won six of their past seven games.

An interesting sidenote about this game is the venue. Arizona State is 2-0 while playing bowl games in baseball stadiums. They beat Rutgers in 2005 in the Insight Bowl at Chase Field and after the 1986 season in the Freedom Bowl in Anaheim Stadium. Let’s hope the baseball stadium luck stays in the Sun Devils favor.

After an embarrassing showing in the Las Vegas Bowl last year, missing the postseason for three years prior to that, and losing their bowl games the two years prior to that, the Sun Devils need to make an impact in this bowl game.

I have outlined the 10 most important things that Arizona State needs to do to win this game and raise their bowl record above .500 to 13-12-1.

10. Taylor Kelly Needs to Be the Field General

First and foremost, sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly needs to solidify his place as Arizona State’s field general.

Kelly, who is third in the Pac-12 with a passer rating of 153.3, has been dead-on for the past two games against Washington State and Arizona.

His 25 touchdowns and 2,772 yards place him fourth in the Pac-12 in both categories and his completion percentage of 65.9 ranks third in the conference.

The Navy Midshipmen only give up an average of 23.5 points per game while Arizona State’s 21st most prolific scoring offense manages an average of 36.4 points per game. Kelly needs to bring it early and often against a team that surrendered two 40+ points games as well as two 50+ points games.

9. Will Sutton Needs to Be 100-Percent Healthy

willThe recipient of the Pac-12 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year has been lights-out this year, but he needs some time for a sprained toe that he suffered against Arizona in the Territorial Cup to heal. He has been wearing a protective boot on his right foot and has not practiced, although he has dressed.

The Sun Devil defense led by Sutton is second in the FBS with 49 total sacks and third with 327 yards lost on sacks and Sutton ranks third in the conference and tied for 16th in the country with 10.5 sacks.

With all these accolades, it is mind-boggling to think what he could have achieved if he had not injured himself in the opening drive against Oregon, missed the next week versus UCLA and played at approximately 60-percent against Oregon State.

Will Sutton is the heart and soul of the 41st ranked defense in the country giving up an average of 24 points per game and he needs to be on the field, at 100-percent and ready to motivate this team to victory.

8. Marion Grice Needs to Be a Dual Threat

The nation’s leading running back in receiving touchdowns with eight had a monster game at Arizona the day after Thanksgiving with three rushing touchdowns to bring his total to 17 total touchdowns on the year.

The three rushing touchdowns equaled his output of rushing touchdowns in his previous 10 games. His 102 points is the third most in the conference and the first non-kicking Sun Devil to eclipse 100 points since Terry Battle in the historic 1996 season.

Grice is a dual threat that leads the team in rushing touchdowns as well as receiving touchdowns. His average of 43.3 rushing yards a game is second on the team and his receiving average of 33.8 yards is fourth.

He needs to shine against this Navy defense whether it is out of the backfield or down the field in receiving.

7. Brandon Magee Needs to Make an Exclamation Point

brandonThe redshirt senior  was on fire against the rival Arizona Wildcats after Thanksgiving. He feasted on the Wildcats with 17 tackles, 14 of them solo. The 17 tackles was his career-high and his 14 solo tackles is the most ever in Territorial Cup history.

Earlier this year, Magee signed with the Boston Red Sox and was an integral part of the Sun Devils outfield playing in two College World Series with Arizona State.

Magee needs to put an exclamation point on his Sun Devil football career in San Francisco on Dec. 29 to keep his NFL draft options open or ride away into the sunset as one of the best linebackers in Arizona State history.

6. Chris Coyle Needs to Step Up His Production

The Sun Devils leading receiver was once again a tight end in 2012. Following in the footsteps of former greats Todd Heap and Zach Miller, Chris Coyle has big shoes to fill at a school some have titled “Tight End U.”

In two of the last three games, Colvin has averaged over 17 yards per reception with catches for 29 and 34 yards. He was rather quiet against Arizona in the Territorial Cup and with only two receptions for 20 yards, so he needs to step up and become the down-field threat that he has been in the past.

5. Kicking Game Needs to Be Perfect

moraPlace kicker Jon Mora was brought in to kick field goals for the Sun Devils after starter Alex Garoutte struggled in the first three games. Mora went 0-2 against Utah and was benched the following week at Cal. He then came back against Colorado and missed a PAT and sat the following week at home vs. Oregon.

Coach Graham decided to split duties with his kickers making Mora the full-time field goal kicker and allowing Garoutte to handle kick-offs and extra point attempts.

Mora has hit 8-of-9 field goals since the change and Alex Garoutte is perfect on 51 straight extra point attempts, the only kicker in the Pac-12 who hasn’t missed this year.

If the Sun Devils are going to defeat Navy on Dec. 28, they cannot have a miss—period.

4. Win the Turnover Battle

It pretty much goes without saying that whoever wins the turnover battle wins the game.

It was never more evident than against Arizona in the Territorial Cup when the Wildcats turned the ball over four times to which the offense scored a touchdown off every turnover.

With 20 interceptions and 14 forced fumbles, the Sun Devil defense ranks second in the conference and fourth in the country.

The Sun Devil defense has returned three interceptions for touchdowns this year ranking them second in the conference and tied for third in the country. Junior Onyeali also recovered a fumble for a touchdown.

With 12 interceptions and 11 lost fumbles, they are winning the turnover game with a +11 on the season and need to build on that against Navy.

3. Stop Senseless Penalties

refI understand that rivalry games are heated and full of hate and passion, but the seven penalties for 86 yards accrued in the Territorial Cup is absolutely unacceptable.

They are still in the top 10 with an average of only 4.42 penalties and 35.75 penalty yards per game. Their 53 penalties for 429 yards are the 14th least in the country.

As anybody that knows how much Arizona State used to be penalized, this is a huge improvement. The new regime under Coach Todd Graham is one of discipline, respect and honor. Unlike the lackadaisical attitude that Dennis Erickson had, the Sun Devils need to maintain their composure and play good, clean football.

It isn’t hard to believe that the two least penalized teams in the country are service academies — Air Force and Navy. Through 11 games, Navy has only been penalized 37 times for 291 yards.

This will be tough battle to win as Navy only averages 3.3 penalties per game with a 26.45 average yards per game ranking them second in the country, once again behind the Air Force Academy.

2. Properly Utilize Time Outs

Arizona State coach Todd Graham has been quite liberal with his time outs this year, routinely calling them while on defense. The final game against Arizona took the cake, Graham called all six of the team’s time outs while on defense.

I understand slowing down the tempo or momentum of the other team, but it stands to reason that the offense or maybe even the kicking unit might need a time out somewhere down the line.

Clock management and the successful use of time outs is the true mark of  a great head coach.

I’m not saying that I know how to coach this team better than Graham as I have zero coaching experience, but I do know that calling all six time outs on defense is ridiculous.

1. Offense Needs to Convert on 3rd and 4th Down

fosterThis also is nearly self-explanatory, if you keep your offense on the field, it increases your ability to score and thus win the game.

Arizona State has been poor on converting their third downs this year, only getting it done 40.11 percent of the time. Thankfully, their defense is only allowing third-down conversions 35.05 percent of the time.

Their fourth-down conversion isn’t any better hitting only 7-of-17 tries for a 41.18 percentage. This ranks 93rd out of 120 FBS teams.

Although they have a great punter in Josh Hubner who leads the conference and is third in the nation with an average of 47.1 yards per punt, they can’t rely on him to save the offense when they don’t convert.

Hubner’s longest punt of 73 yards ranks eight in the country and he excels at placing the ball within the 20-yard line, having done it over 40 times in his two years as ASU’s punter.

Arizona State can win this game easily if they follow these simple things. A victory will spell their first eight-win since 2007 when they had 10 wins and a share of the Pac-12 Championship.

Things are on the rise for Graham and the Sun Devils and I, for one couldn’t be happier.