Q&A With The House of Sparky

Brock Osweiler will lead Arizona St. Saturday night in their quest for the Sun Devils' first win in their last 4 tries against Oregon St. (Photo via AZ Central)

As we approach this year's edition of the "Erickson Bowl", matching Oregon St. against former OSU head coach Dennis Erickson's Arizona St. squad, we got together with our brother SB Nation blog from "The House of Sparky" to get some insight into the state of the Sun Devils, and catch them up on the Beavs as well.

Here's our answers to their questions.

And here are some great answers to the things we wondered most about:

The Illinois game was a surprising, almost shocking, outcome, especially to those who saw the Missouri and USC games, but not that one, not just because of the outcome, but also how low scoring it was. The 6 sacks of Brock Osweiler seems to explain why that happened.

But how did it happen? Oregon St. coach Mike Riley commented that he noticed how good the coverage by the Illini was, and that was a big factor. Did Illinois have something in their defensive scheme the Sun Devils didn’t expect? Or something they couldn’t match up well against?

Illinois did a good job at the beginning of the game in cutting off ASU’s receivers just long enough to attack Osweiler. That coverage/pressure combination definitely threw a kink into the Sun Devils’ passing offense, and from there the Fighting Illini were able to generate several sacks. ASU’s offense wasn’t prepared for that, and it’s something that the Sun Devils will have to adjust to.

I think it is a fixable problem: more time together should help the offense as a unit. We won’t know whether ASU actually fixes these problems, though, until a Pac-12 opponent throws a vicious pass rush at them. The Beavers could produce some real results if they bring lots of blitzes on Osweiler.

The stock line about Arizona St., and Coach Dennis Erickson’s teams in general, is about their being spectacular, but undisciplined, which results in penalties, turnovers, and mistakes in close games. And its generally been true. But the win over USC was exactly the opposite. The Sun Devils took the ball away 4 times, and didn’t give it away, and they had very few penalties. And not surprisingly, they blew the Trojans out. Arizona St. has a huge number of players who are seniors, and others with a considerable amount of experience. Is the improvement as simple as their maturity? Or did Erickson do something new that has made the difference?

It was maturity, to a degree. ASU realized just how big that USC game was (going winless since 1999), and the team made a conscious effort to stay within itself all night. So yes, I think that it does ultimately trace back to maturity, but that maturity came on a big stage with big stakes.

Will the Sun Devils act the same way in games that don’t hold the same amount of value? We’ll have to watch this squad for a few more weeks before we know.

Oregon St. has lost 5 straight and 7 of 8, but Arizona St. has lost 3 in a row against the Beavers. So essentially none of the Sun Devils’ players have ever beaten them. Which fact seems more relevant to the team? Do they see the Beavers more as a team they should beat (and could have a let-down against), or one they have had nothing but trouble with?

The Sun Devils see Oregon State as a team that they should beat. The team knows that it has beaten two Top 25 opponents at home this season, and they expect nothing but the best on their home turf. This past week solidified that mentality with the USC win. ASU expects to beat everyone and anyone who walks into their stadium, Oregon State included.

Arizona St. had a reputation for not being as tough of a place to play as it could have been, other than due to the heat. Now that the Sun Devils have seemingly turned the corner, has the student body, and the community in general, raised their game as well? Will the Beavers encounter a "hostile" (in a good way) environment Saturday night?

The crowd has been a nice plus for the Sun Devils, and the team seems to gain more and more support from the stands with each big home win. After the USC victory and with the possibility of a Pac-12 South title at hand, ASU fans are stoked for what this season could offer. The crowd should be loud against the Beavers, and the Beavers could find themselves in a "hostile" environment if the fans start sensing a let-down in the works.

Finally, what one thing are you concerned about, that could lead to an upset that could derail what looks like a very promising season for the Sun Devils? A key injury, possibly to Osweiler? Or something else?

I think early complacency could be a downfall for the Sun Devils, at the beginning of both halves. The Sun Devils have been fortunate against Missouri and USC to score early in the first half, but they have come out slow in the second half and almost lost both games because of it.

ASU needs to step on the gas early to pick up more wins this year. Aside from that, injuries are a concern for a team that was wrecked by the injury bug during the offseason. However, I don’t think that any one injury (barring maybe Osweiler or Vontaze Burfict) would derail ASU’s season this year.

Thanks to the House of Sparky writers for sharing their perspective on Arizona St.

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com

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