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Oregon State Football: Opponent Spring Preview - Arizona State Sun Devils (Game 11)

Could the clash with the Sun Devils on Senior Day have Bowl game ramifications?

NCAA Football: Oregon at Arizona State Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

On November 18, 2017, the Beavers could possibly have a major opportunity when they host the Arizona State Sun Devils. Oregon State may be playing for a chance to capture their 6th win of the 2017 football season against their opponents from Tempe, and an opportunity to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since the 2013 season. In addition, it will be Senior Day, which is always special. Let us take a look at this colossal match-up.

Arizona State’s 2016 Season

Arizona State began the 2016 season at 5-1, but finished the season on a 6-game losing streak, which included an embarrassing 56-35 loss to their in-state rivals, the Arizona Wildcats. Despite being under contract until 2021, the hot seat under head coach Todd Graham is getting warmer. The Sun Devils missed a bowl game for the first time under Graham last season and have posted a 6-12 record against conference foes over the past two seasons. In the simplest of terms, the Sun Devils are not a program trending in the right direction.

NCAA Football: Cactus Bowl-West Virginia vs Arizona State
The Sun Devils missed a bowl game for the first time under head coach Todd Graham in 2016.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State’s Outlook for 2017

Graham is entering his sixth year as the lead man at ASU. Graham and the Sun Devils are looking to bounce back after a disappointing 5-7 record in 2016. The Graham Era began fabulously during his first season in 2012. He guided the Sun Devils to their first bowl game since 2007. In 2013 and 2014, Arizona State posted back-to back 10 win seasons, which included a Pac-12 South Title in 2013. The Sun Devils finished 6-7 in 2015, after the loss in the Cactus Bowl to West Virginia. According to the Athlon Magazine, Graham is ranked 7th overall in their Coaches on the Hot Seat list.

The Sun Devils return 7 starters on offense including star sophomore receiver N’Keal Harry, and the talented senior running back duo of Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage. Richard owns a brutal combination of size and speed, while Ballage tied an NCAA record last season with 8 total touchdowns vs Texas Tech. Former 5-star recruit and Alabama transfer Blake Barnett (sophomore) will battle the returning starting QB Manny Watkins (junior) for the head gunslinger spot on this team.

Arizona State was gashed all season on defense last season. ASU’s defense was ranked 127th in the nation in “Total Defense”. Pac-12 offenses quickly figured out how to attack the Sun Devils 3-3-5 defensive system, predicated on blitzing from various angles. ASU looks to improve on the defensive side of things in 2017, as they return 8 starters, including LB Koron Crump led the team with 9 sacks last season.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Arizona State
Koron Crump has quickly become one of the most-feared defenders in the Pac-12.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup

This contest could feature two of the Pac-12’s most improved teams in 2017. There are numerous variables on how these teams are going to be positioned near season’s end in 2017. I believe these two teams are going to compete for one of the Pac-12’s bowl games. The Sun Devils will travel to Corvallis one week after a road date at UCLA. The weather shift will be a major factor in this one, especially for the educated guess that Corvallis will have some cold weather, which is a contrast to warmer climates in Tempe and Los Angeles. November visits to Corvallis have proven difficult for ASU in the past. Last time the Sun Devils visited Corvallis, they were the 8th ranked team in the nation, and they were upset by Sean Mannion and the un-ranked Oregon State Beavers 35-27 in November of 2014.

I expect a competitive game in Corvallis. Beaver Nation will attend this game in huge numbers as the excitement of clinching a bowl berth brings excitement to Corvallis. Look for the crowd and the weather to be a major factor in this contest. In addition, I expect the strong Beaver Running game led by Ryan Nall and friends to take over this game in the 4th. quarter. Look for key plays made by his backfield mates Artavis Pierce and Thomas Tyner. The Defense will slow down the Arizona State offense and Beaver Nation will celebrate their return to a Bowl Game for the first time since 2013.

Prediction: Beavers 38, Sun Devils 21