The 2009 season is upon us.
Today marks the kickoff of yet another exciting college football campaign, with a fellow Pac-10 foe traveling to Boise State to play the Broncos on their legendary blue turf. Although many Pac-10 fans will have their eyes on that game, Arizona State fans will be looking toward their Sun Devils' opening game against Idaho State.
ASU's Saturday night tilt against the ISU Bengals, does not have the lure or the "sex appeal" of the top-25 duel in Boise, ID tonight. However, it is important for Arizona State and head coach Dennis Erickson to start the season strong, no matter who the opponent is.
Idaho State did not impress anyone last season with a 1-11 record, but everyone will be 0-0 starting tonight, and anything can happen in college football.
Don't get me wrong, I am not predicting an upset win for the gritty Idaho State Bengals.
Actually, I would be surprised if the Bengals came within 30 points of Arizona State on Saturday night. The offense for Arizona State, will unveil their new look shotgun sets nearly every play and Danny Sullivan should have the time to pick out his receivers.
On the defensive side of the ball, ASU should shutdown the Bengals. Lawrence Guy might be out of the lineup due to injury, however, and that will allow freshmen Will Sutton and Corey Adams to earn valuable experience and make a name for themselves.
The strength of the Sun Devil team is by far the linebacking corps, and Idaho State's running game might have minimal success if any in this area of the game. The front seven will look to control the game and pressure the quarterback from the first snap.
Key Players for ASU
Danny Sullivan, Senior QB
If there is one player on the field Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium that fans in attendance will be watching with a close eye, he will undoubtedly be senior quarterback Danny Sullivan. This will be the first career start for Sullivan, however, the signal caller has been practicing day in and day out the last three seasons to be the starter.
This is just the first time that "'Sully" knows he is the man under center. Sullivan witnessed how quickly Sun Devil fans can turn on their quarterbacks and coaches with the whole "Rudy-Sam Keller fiasco" and the "Koetter demise."
Through all of that, Sullivan witnessed the emotion and passion from the fans, and with his improvement from year one to year four, fans will be pleasantly surprised with his efficiency and hard throwing cannon of an arm on Saturday night versus Idaho State. This is the first test for Sullivan on a 12-step quest to lead ASU back to a bowl game.
Kyle Williams, Senior WR
The Senior receiver has had glimpses as a kick returner as well as a punt returner during his career in Tempe, however, Kyle Williams has never returned one back for a touchdown. His longest return off of a punt came just last season, when the speedy athlete ran a punt back for 64 yards against UCLA in a 34-9 win.
Although the Scottsdale, AZ native has made a name as returner so far in his career, Williams' Senior campaign will be the season that he earns his stripes as the big play threat for Dennis Erickson and the Sun Devil offense.
With only 10 touchdowns in his career, Williams and the maroon and gold fans will be looking for a touchdown mark close to that number this season.
Idaho State Player Spotlight
Kyle Blum, Junior QB
Kyle Blum was not the starter for the Bengals until week 11. Blum's first start was against FCS powerhouse Montana. With the lead going into halftime, Blum led the Bengals with 246 yards passing with one touchdown, but ended up tossing three interceptions in the second half.
However, Blum has shown resiliency and fight at the quarterback position. He bounced back the following week against Sacramento State and led the Bengals to an overtime victory at home to avoid a winless season.
Blum passed for 342 yards on 16 completions and only one touchdown.
The offense will not rely just on Blum, he has solid receivers out wide to lend a helping hand. JD Ponciano, Isaiah Burel, and Jaron Taylor will test the inexperienced safeties for ASU Saturday night.
Burel and Taylor both accumulated over 600 yards receiving last season, while combining for seven touchdown catches.
Blum will lead Idaho State's offense, that averaged 370 yards per game last season, against the daunting Arizona State defense from the PAC-10.
Arizona State 38 Idaho State 9
Erickson's offense explodes early in the game, with a little help from the defense returning an interception for a touchdown. Idaho State gets onto the scoreboard but only a few field goals. The consistency Dennis Erickson was talking about from his defense will be on display from game one.