The Beavers will follow up their September 26 home game against Arizona with a trip to the Valley of the Sun to play Arizona State in Tempe. Not only does the game pit the Beavers against former head coach Dennis Erickson, it's a key test for both teams. The Sporting News has marked it as the "Game to Watch" for the Beavers this year, citing the following:
A victory in the conference road opener would signal the Beavers are once again a contender. But a loss, especially a bad one, would indicate the team isn't ready for prime time.
It seems fair to say that the Sun Devils were a disappointment in 2008-- they were projected to be a force in the Pac-10, but began to slowly fall off the map after a 27-10 loss to Georgia. ASU will travel to Georgia this year in a key pre-season matchup. That game comes the week before the Beavers travel to Tempe.
Like Arizona, the Sun Devils also have a quarterback to replace-- departed senior Rudy Carpenter. Danny Sullivan is the front-runner at this point.
Wide receivers Chris McGaha, Kyle Williams and Kerry Taylor guide the receiving end of the passing game, while powerhouse offensive tackle Shawn Lauvao spearheads the offensive line. The line is stocked full of veterans who have experience at multiple positions, such as Jon Hargis, and ASU has two options at center in Thomas Altieri and Garth Gerhart.
Dimitri Nance looks like ASU's guy in the backfield. He led ASU in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns in 2008 and has totaled 1,139 rushing yards on 294 carries with 13 touchdowns in 33 career games with seven total starts at running back. Bryce Erickson, Dennis' son, is now on the ASU staff as the running back coach... not sure if that will help Nance or not. The ASU rushing game can seemingly only go one direction-- they average 89.1 yards rushing per game last season.
The defense was on of the steady strong points of the team last fall, at it only seems like it's improving. Dexter Davis is back at end, and talented linebacker and secondary corps return.
Seniors Mike Nixon and Travis Goethel have led the charge at linebacker over the past three years, while cornerback Omar Bolden brings an aggressive and athletic nature to the secondary.
Once again, the Beavers and Sun Devils will square off in Tempe on October 3.