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(25) Arizona State (5-2) at Washington State (4-4)



Thursday, October 31, 10:30 p.m. (et)

The Sports Network

By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: After breaking back into the Top 25, the Arizona State Sun Devils will look to run over the Washington State Cougars when the two Pac-12 squads collide at Martin Stadium.

The Sun Devils rose to as high as No 22 in the Top 25 in early October, but a 37-34 loss to Notre Dame sent them out. Since that loss the Sun Devils have posted huge victories over Colorado (54-13) and then No. 20 Washington (53-24) in consecutive games and are now once again in the national rankings. The honor came despite the Sun Devils being off this past weekend as they sat idle on their 5-2 overall record and 3-1 mark in league play. Thanks to a loss from UCLA last Saturday, the Sun Devils are now in sole possession of first place in the South Division of the conference as they continue the back half of the schedule.

"We're getting better each week. The guys are practicing harder than I've ever seen and preparing more than I've ever seen. As long as we do our job and do what we're coached to do, we're going to have a lot of success," Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly said. "It's different this year. The guys are a lot closer. It's going to be a great season. We just have to focus on Washington State this week and be prepared."

The good news for Washington State is it has already surpassed its win total from a year ago when it went 3-9. However at 1-3 in league play the Cougars are still struggling to make an impact in the Pac-12. Perhaps it wasn't the kind of impression that is felt in the standings but the Cougars certainly made one with their aerial assault in a loss to Oregon last time out. In the contest, Connor Halliday set an NCAA Division I record in passing attempts (89), while completing 58, the second-highest single game total ever.

"I knew we'd thrown the ball a lot. I didn't know how many," Washington State Mike Leach said. "I just want balance among the positions. I don't care if we throw it or run. We'd like to have semblance of balance."

A repeat of last year's matchup between these squads may not be the ideal outcome for a nationally televised contest. Arizona State blasted the Cougars, 46-7, thanks to four passing touchdowns from Kelly. The win pushed the Sun Devils all-time series advantage to 24-13-2.

The Arizona State offense should just be called the Marion Grice show. Grice has been an incredibly versatile running back for the Sun Devils and his ability to find the end zone has been unmatched. Grice has rushed for 553 yards and has scored 12 touchdowns on the ground, while adding 302 yards and six scores on 33 receptions. Grice's 18 total touchdowns are the most by a single player in the country. Grice had 158 rushing yards against Washington, making him the first player for Arizona State to eclipse the 100-yard mark this year.

Grice isn't the only productive player for the Sun Devils, who rank second in the Pac-12 in total offense (509.1 ypg). Kelly clearly has an important role in the scheme, as he has thrown for 2,236 yards and 18 touchdowns on 62 percent passing this season. Kelly has been intercepted a bit too often (seven) and his protection has not always been there as he has been sacked 15 times. However, Kelly can escape pressure as he showed against Washington, rushing for 83 yards and two touchdowns.

The only thing missing from Arizona State's thorough beating of the Huskies was a big game from Jaelen Strong. The Sun Devils' top wideout had just three catches for seven yards. That is quite a dropoff for a player leading the team in receptions (45) and yards (685), while adding four touchdowns. Strong had 100 yards in five straight games entering the contest. D.J. Foster (36 receptions, 390 yards, TD) and tight end Chris Coyle (18 receptions, 302 yards, three TDs) are also important pieces to the offensive puzzle.

The Sun Devils have been one of the more balanced teams in the Pac-12 as they can play defense as well as they play offense. Arizona State is second in the league in total yards allowed (349.3 ypg), with a real skill in slowing teams down through the air. Three different players have at least two interceptions for the Sun Devils, while Will Sutton (5.5 TFL), Carl Bradford (4.5 sacks) and Davon Coleman (7.0 TFL) power a strong front seven.

Leach can say he wants balance all he wants but it is clear that Washington State is not a team that is going to run much, if at all. The Cougars are heavily reliant on the passing attack, as they average 373.1 yards through the air, putting up 431.5 yards of total offense per week.

Halliday is not afraid to air it out, but that has sometimes been a disadvantage. Though Halliday has already racked up 2,798 yards and 18 touchdowns, on a healthy 63.8 percent passing, he has also been picked off 17 times (most in the Pac-12). His record-setting effort against Oregon was a stellar example, as he had 557 yards and four scores, but also turned the ball over four times.

Halliday's favorite receiver this season has been Gabe Marks (59 receptions, 655 yards, five TDs), who had a record-setting game of his own against Oregon. Marks hauled in 13 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown in the losing effort. However, a team that passes the ball this much has plenty of opportunities for other pass-catchers. Eight different players have at least 20 catches on the season with Vince Mayle (21 receptions, 317 yards, five TDs) and Dominique Williams (23 receptions, 376 yards, four TDs) the most dangerous.

Deone Bucannon is well on his way to all-conference honors for the Cougars as the leader of their defense. Bucannon has accumulated a team-high 73 tackles and also has four INTs. No other player on the team has more than 50 tackles, although Damante Horton (31 tackles, four INTS) has managed to match Bucannon as a ball hawk. In all, the Cougars are surrendering 440.4 yards and 29.9 points per game.

It is unlikely that Washington State will need to push Halliday to great lengths again this week. However, against an Arizona State squad that is incredibly deep on offense thanks to Grice and Kelly, matching scores may become a necessity. If the Sun Devils' quick-strike ability can't be slowed by the Cougars, expect another contest where Halliday is trying to throw Washington State back into contention.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arizona State 48, Washington State 31

10/30 10:39:48 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
DUKE 47
TULA 13
3rd
ECU 42
UNC 27
 
1st
TOWSN 7
NCCU 0
 
1st
NCSU 7
PRES 0
 
Final
KAN 2
DET 3
Final
CHC 8
LOS 7
7th
OAK 0
PHI 2
 
7th
NYY 2
TOR 5
 
7th
COL 5
ARI 1
 
7:05pm Tonight
BAL
BOS
7:05pm Tonight
PIT
MIL
7:10pm Tonight
TAM
CWS
7:10pm Tonight
MIN
CLE
7:10pm Tonight
ATL
NYM
7:10pm Tonight
HOU
SEA
7:10pm Tonight
MIA
WAS
7:15pm Tonight
STL
CIN
8:40pm Tonight
SDP
SFG
9:05pm Tonight
ANA
TEX
Final
WISC 68
BGU 17
Final
MSU 73
EMICH 14
Final
VT 24
GT 27
Final
PITT 20
IOWA 24
Final
RICE 42
ODU 45
Final
UGA 66
TROY 0
Final
SYR 20
MD 34
 
Final
DUKE 47
TULA 13
Final
COL 21
HAW 12
 
Final
AKR 17
MARS 48
 
4th
WAKE 24
ARMY 21
 
3rd
KU 10
CMICH 10
 
3rd
ALA 28
UF 21
 
Half
FIU 3
LOU 28
 
3rd
ECU 42
UNC 27
 
4th
NAVY 17
RUTG 31
 
4th
SMU 3
TEXAM 51
 
4th
MICH 10
UTAH 26
 
4th
BYU 27
UVA 16
 
4th
WYO 10
FATL 16
 
3rd
MIZZ 17
IND 17
 
3rd
PSU 41
UMASS 0
 
4th
MINN 17
SJST 7
 
4:00pm Today
ILL 6
TXST 14
1st
WASH 0
GASTATE 0
 
7:00pm Tonight
SMISS
APPST
7:00pm Tonight
TOL
BST
7:00pm Tonight
OHIO
IDAHO
7:00pm Tonight
CIN
UMO
7:00pm Tonight
MEM
MTST
7:00pm Tonight
LSU
MSST
7:00pm Tonight
ARK
NILL
7:00pm Tonight
ARKST
UTST
7:30pm Tonight
SALABAMA
GASO
7:30pm Tonight
WVU
OKLA
7:30pm Tonight
VANDY
SCAR
8:00pm Tonight
FSU
CLEM
8:00pm Tonight
NEB
MIAMI
8:00pm Tonight
NMST
NMU
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
UNLV
10:00pm Tonight
ARZ
CAL
10:30pm Tonight
BSU
LALAF
10:30pm Tonight
WASU
OREG
10:30pm Tonight
ORST
SDST
1st
TOWSN 7
NCCU 0
 
1st
NCSU 7
PRES 0