Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Washington State Cougars: Complete Game Preview

Robby Baker@@Robby__BakerContributor IIIOctober 30, 2013

Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Washington State Cougars: Complete Game Preview

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    The Arizona State Sun Devils will look to solidify their Top-25 ranking with a win over Wazzu.
    The Arizona State Sun Devils will look to solidify their Top-25 ranking with a win over Wazzu.

    The Arizona State Sun Devils and Washington State Cougars will kickoff Week 10 of the college football season in Pullman Thursday night.

    ASU is back in the Top 25 and looking to get their first win as a ranked team this year, while the Cougars are looking to stop the bleeding after losing three of their last four games.

    The Sun Devils are coming off of a bye week but haven't fared well on the road so far in 2013. ASU has lost both of their games away from Tempe this year and lost a shocker in Pullman two years ago.

    Washington State comes into Thursday's game having lost two straight but boast one of the nation's most prolific passing attacks.

    There should be plenty of offensive fireworks to go around when these two teams face off.

    Here is all the information you need to know about the matchup.

     

    Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

    Location: Martin Stadium, Pullman, Washington

    Television: ESPN

    Radio: Sun Devil IMG Sports Network, Washington State IMG Sports Network

    Spread: ASU 11.5, according to Vegas.com.

     

    Stats and information from ESPN.com and cfbstats.com unless otherwise indicated. Robby Baker is a B/R Featured Columnist. You can find his B/R archive, follow him @Robby__Baker.

Arizona State Keys to Victory

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    The Sun Devils need their pass rush to continue playing at a high level.
    The Sun Devils need their pass rush to continue playing at a high level.

    Put Pressure on Connor Halliday

    Arizona State made Washington quarterback Keith Price so uncomfortable with their pass rush, Price probably never wants to come back to Tempe. For the first part of 2013, ASU struggled to get consistent pressure in opponent's backfields, but against Washington, they flipped a switch and looked like the pass rush everyone thought they would be. To beat Washington State, ASU will have to stop one of the nation's best passing attacks. If the Sun Devil's can get pressure on the quarterback again, they'll win.

     

    Get Up Early

    Martin Stadium will be rocking Thursday night. It's Halloween, and Washington State is seeking a marquee win to get them even closer to bowl eligibility. The Sun Devils need to minimize the Cougars home field-advantage by scoring early and often and taking the crowd out of the game.

     

    Can't Overlook Washington State

    Two years ago, the Sun Devils traveled to Pullman and lost a game they should have won easily. It will be cold, and the Sun Devils haven't been the same team on the road this year. ASU needs to be mentally prepared to play a full 60 minutes of Sun Devil football Thursday night, otherwise they will find themselves in a dogfight late in the game.

Washington State Keys to Victory

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    Washington State needs to rely on their passing attack Thursday night.
    Washington State needs to rely on their passing attack Thursday night.

    Connor Halliday Needs to Have a Big Game

    Connor Halliday is currently ranked third in the country, having thrown for 2,798 yards already this season. He has also completed almost 63 percent of his passes this year. For Washington State to pull the upset, Halliday needs to have a stellar performance. The Cougars haven't been able to run the ball successfully this year, so Halliday will have to win them this game.

     

    Minimize the Impact of Marion Grice

    ASU running back Marion Grice has been a scoring machine this year. The Cougars defense has played well at home so far, but Grice has a natural ability to score and could cause Washington State headaches Thursday night. Grice can't be stopped, but the Cougars need to contain him.

     

    Win the Turnover Battle

    One team will make a mistake, or two, Thursday night. For Washington State to win and pull the upset, they need to win the turnover battle and capitalize on ASU's mistakes.

Arizona State Players to Watch

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    Carl Bradford has become ASU's best defender.
    Carl Bradford has become ASU's best defender.

    Carl Bradford

    Bradford has become ASU's best defender. He leads the team in sacks, passes broken up and tackles for a loss. He also has accounted for 32 tackles so far this year. As this season has gone on, Bradford has gotten better and better and is playing like a man possessed. Against a passing team like Washington State, Bradford should be able to pin his ears back and get to the quarterback with ease.

     

    Jaelen Strong

    While Strong probably won't have a game for the record books against Washington State, Sun Devil fans should keep an eye on how he makes his cuts and runs his routes. Strong is battling an ankle injury, and Sun Devil fans will find out Thursday night if their star receiver is healthy or not. If he can play, and play well, Sun Devil fans will be able to breathe a sigh of relief. 

Washington State Players to Watch

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    Deone Bucannon is a player to watch for Washington State.
    Deone Bucannon is a player to watch for Washington State.

    Deone Bucannon

    Bucannon leads the Cougars with 73 total tackles and has four interceptions this year. The defensive back will be an impact player Thursday night for Washington State and could help to stop ASU's high-octane offense. Bucannon's play hasn't just impressed Cougar fans this year though, he was recently listed as a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award.

     

    Gabe Marks

    Marks leads the team with 59 receptions and 655 yards. He's Connor Halliday's favorite target and needs to have a big game Thursday night if the Cougars want to pull the upset. Marks racked up 153 receiving yards in Washington State's loss to Oregon in their last game, and he will need to put up similar numbers against ASU for his team to win.

What They Are Saying

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    Washington State head coach Mike Leach is never short for words.
    Washington State head coach Mike Leach is never short for words.

    ASU head coach Todd Graham tweeted a picture of the uniform combination the Sun Devil's will be sporting earlier this week:

    pic.twitter.com/nPJH69DSek

    — Todd Graham (@CoachGrahamASU) October 28, 2013

    Graham told ArizonaSports.com's Kyle Payne that his team isn't going to take the Cougars lightly:

    I think the thing we've emphasized with our players this week, is just how much better they are than they were last year and how hard they play. These guys are going to play hard. These guys are tough. These guys, I can tell, are a strong character team.

     

    Cougar's quarterback Connor Halliday was apparently easily distracted in their last game against Oregon:

    Oregon's cheerleaders.. Wow

    — Connor Halliday (@c_halliday12) October 27, 2013

     

    ASU receiver Jaelen Strong tweeted that fans and teammates should expect him on the field Thursday night:

    Good win tonight!! S/O to all units. Offense/Defense/ST I'm good thanks for all the love!! I'm back out there against WASU. Believe that!

    — Jaelen Strong (@JaelenStrong) October 20, 2013

     

Prediction

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    The Sun Devils will celebrate their first road victory Thursday night in Pullman.
    The Sun Devils will celebrate their first road victory Thursday night in Pullman.

    Arizona State 51, Washington State 17

    If ASU plays as well as they did against Washington, this game will be a blowout.

    The Sun Devils are far more talented on paper than the Cougars and should be able to put up plenty of points. Last year, ASU scored 46 and the Sun Devil's offense wasn't as good as it is this year.

    Washington State will lose their third straight and will still be two wins shy of bowl eligibility. While Mike Leach has done a decent job turning the progam around, they just aren't as talented as ASU is currently.

    This will be a big win for ASU, as it will be their first as a ranked team and their first road victory of the season.