Saturday night is an early defining moment for both Wisconsin and Arizona State in their 2013 college football seasons. With conference play kicking off for both next weekend, these two BCS schools are playing for momentum as much as pride.
ESPN's Big Ten blog provided some further impacts of a game like this:
Gary Andersen says Arizona State game matters for the conference, matters to Wisconsin's recruiting. "Huge opportunity for us."— Rittenberg/Bennett (@ESPN_BigTen) September 10, 2013
Things won’t get easier any time soon for the Sun Devils. They will travel to Stanford next weekend for another grueling matchup against the fifth-ranked Cardinal.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, they have a big task at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday night under the lights. Although, Arizona State is unbeaten against the Big Ten at its home venue in its past eight tries.
Can the Badgers end the streak and head into conference play with a big win? We’ll take a look below at what to expect on Saturday night.
When: Saturday, September 14 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
TV Coverage: ESPN
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Betting Line (per Covers.com): Over/Under: 54.5; Spread: Arizona State (-4)
Questionable: FB Derek Watt (hamstring), WR Chase Hammond (arm)
Out: DB Damarious Randall (groin)
Questionable: WR Cameron Smith (hamstring), S Marcus Ball (shoulder)
These two big-conference schools have yet to be tested. While they both blew out inferior competition in previous weeks—Wisconsin boasts a 93-0 margin of victory in two wins—they will get a better gauge of where each stands this weekend in the desert.
Despite the lack of competition, Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham isn’t sleeping on the Badgers’ ability to play competitive football. After all, a 93-0 margin is good no matter who you're playing.
“These guys are a really, really good football team,” the coach said, per Jeff Metcalfe of AZCentral.com. “Totally dominated their first two opponents. Really physical defense up front, really good in all phases.”
The Sun Devils are no slouches, though. It’s a game in which anything truly can happen. But which team will rise to the occasion on Saturday night?
The Badgers could control the line of scrimmage, making their offense a productive defensive tool against a high-powered Sun Devils offense. If they can provide openings, their talented running-back group will be able to keep the chains and the clock moving all evening. Wisconsin's big offensive line has its work cut out for itself, though, against a stout Sun Devils unit anchored by senior defensive tackle Will Sutton.
Call your shot:
Last week, Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly torched Sacramento State for five touchdowns that went to five different receivers. He has also gone 102 straight pass attempts without throwing an interception, the fourth-best streak currently in the NCAA, per ESPN Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller. Including the final three games of 2012, Kelly is 76-of-102 passing with 1,005 yards, 13 touchdowns and no picks.
The Badgers defense is no slouch, though, allowing just four opponent’s possessions to cross the 50-yard line during their first two matchups. Stopping the run and getting pressure on Kelly will be a tough task, but not one that’s unattainable, even in the desert.
Moving the football will not be as easy for either team as it has been to this point. But of the two teams, I’m not sure quarterback Joel Stave is ready for prime time on the road. Give this one to the Sun Devils at home, but it’ll be a close one.
Final Score: Arizona State 27, Wisconsin 24