Wisconsin vs. Arizona State: Sun Devils Will Take Badgers' Place in Rankings
While Wisconsin is sitting pretty in the national college football rankings, where Arizona State is lurking on the outside, the two squads will switch places after Saturday night.
The Badgers enter this weekend at No. 21 in the Associated Press poll while the Sun Devils hold the most votes of any team outside the Top 25. That's little consolation for Arizona State, but it will steal a Top 25 spot, potentially from Wisconsin, with a victory this weekend.
It's hard to gauge either team's true merit, as both have started their respective campaign with cakewalks. Arizona State ushered in the new season with a 55-0 slaughtering of Sacramento State while Wisconsin has 45-0 and 48-0 shutouts to its name.
That's a combined 148-0 scoring advantage, but what happens when each team faces a worthy adversary?
Wisconsin trails just Baylor and Oregon in total yards among college offenses nationally, but Arizona State wouldn't be far behind if it had also already played twice.
Melvin Gordon and James White, who form a deadly duo at running back for the Badgers in rushing for 536 combined yards this season, hold the key to Wisconsin prevailing.
Arizona State, however, sports two key advantages that should set it apart in this tightly contested matchup—a better quarterback and home-field advantage.
Sophomore Joel Stave has made significant progress for the Badgers early in his senior season, completing 71.7 percent of his passes at 9.0 yards per attempt. But he only attempted 17 passes against Massachusetts, as the Badgers ran the ball down the Minutemen's throats.
Who will win on Saturday night: Arizona State or Wisconsin?
Stave has still not been tested by a dangerous opponent. It's easy to play with a 40-point lead, but how will the inexperienced quarterback respond to an early deficit? After turning the ball over twice in low-pressure situations, it remains to be seen how will Stave handle a game-deciding situation.
On the other side, Taylor Kelly is in line for a monster game. The junior amassed 300 passing yards and five touchdowns in his season debut, showing great poise in ASU's spread formation. Kelly completed 67.1 percent of his passes last season with 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions, so his strong stat line this season is not solely due to bullying a weaker opponent.
Three starters from Wisconsin's 2012 secondary have moved on, providing Kelly with a chance to decimate an inexperienced crew that has not yet faced anyone near his talent level.
The home-field advantage for Arizona State is enough to tilt the arrow in the Sun Devils' direction, making them a 5.5-point favorite, according to Vegas Insider. They have never lost to a Big 10 foe at home and now have even more motivation at Sun Devil Stadium.
Before the Sun Devils take the field, they will depart down the newly constructed Pat Tillman Tunnel. Take a look at what the players get to see, courtesy of ESPN SportsCenter's Twitter page.
If that doesn't pump you up, what will?
The national rankings may tout Wisconsin as the superior team, but Arizona State will force the voters to re-access that claim and award the Sun Devils a much-deserved spot in the Top 25 after this weekend.
Wisconsin will just have to hope that Arizona State shows it some mercy.
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