Oregon State’s window to grab a second win before the end of the season is closing rapidly. Their latest chance comes in the form of their first date with the Arizona State Sun Devils (5-5, 4-3 Pac-12) since 2014. For soms perspective on how ASU’s season has gone and what we can expect on Saturday, we talked with Josiah Destin and Max Madden of SB Nation’s Oregon State community Houseofsparky.com.
1.What’s the biggest difference between this year’s team and last year’s ASU squad?
Destin: The defense and the quarterback. While Manny Wilkins is the same QB under center as last season, he’s improved immensely. The Sun Devils are giving up less than a touchdown per game than they did last season. In games they’ve won, it’s usually because the defense played well (Washington and Utah).
Madden: I actually think there are far more similarities than differences. The defense is incredibly inconsistent and the offense seems to check out during certain key situations — and lack creativity when its needed most.
2. Wilkins has quietly had a pretty decent season. What's your impression of the Sun Devil QB?
Destin: Great, but sometimes he can’t finish drives (UCLA) and hasn’t stepped up in huge situations (Texas Tech). He also commonly makes it obvious when throwing to N’Keal Harry, but at times, that doesn’t matter because he can create space so well. But just four interceptions compared to the nine he had last season is very respectable. He’s thrown for 2,588 yards too. If he gets to 3,000, Wilkins can seriously shoosh some preseason haters.
Madden: He’s definitely much improved both on and off the field. Willins is a much more vocal leader than he was last year and makes smarter decisions with the football, if it weren’t for a few deflections he likely wouldn’t have any turnovers.
3. Who is the definitive MVP of this team in your opinion?
Destin: Christian Sam. He leads the Pac-12 in tackles (104) and was bound to have a big season after missing 11 of 12 games in 2016. It seems he and DJ Calhoun are so consistent as linebackers that they don’t get talked about very much. If I had two picks, Harry is definitely on my list.
Madden: Alani Latu.
4. If there’s one area you think that ASU needs to key in on in order to beat Oregon State, what is it?
Destin: Stop the run. Stop Ryan Nall. ASU allowed for UCLA to be two-dimensional on Saturday, as Rosen threw for 381 yards and the Bruins ran for nearly 200 yards. All Oregon State really has going for them is its running game.
Madden: Finish red zone drives. ASU was one of the best when it came to doing that coming into the UCLA game, but the Sun Devils really struggled to get six in Los Angeles last weekend.
5. With the season winding down, what does ASU’s team for next season look like?
Destin: Good. If Wilkins keeps the job, they’ll have a third-year QB, which isn’t common in college football. Plus, they return key receivers N’Keal Harry and Kyle Williams. Defensively, not as great. The Sun Devils lose Tashon Smallwood, Latu, Calhoun and possibly Sam, but likely return JoJo Wicker, and Koron Crump. The secondary will be older and wiser though.
Madden: The offense is going to lose a couple key weapons in Demario Richard and Kaelen Ballage in the backfield. They’ll also lose some key leaders on defense. Some guys will have to step up.
6. Top 5 uniforms in college football, ASU excluded. Go.
Destin: 1. Notre Dame 2. Penn State 3. USC 4. LSU 5. Florida State.
And no, the Oregon Ducks are not on there. This is isn’t 2010.
Madden: 1: Oregon 2: Oklahoma State 3: Penn State 4: Ohio State 5: Utah
7. Final score and outcome prediction?
Destin: 35-21 Sun Devils.
The Sun Devils don’t completely stop the running game, but do enough. Wilkins throws for 300 yards for the first time since playing Oregon in September.
Madden: ASU 33, OSU 30
Also check out the Q&A we did with House of Sparky here.