At AutzenZoo we’re going to start a new Sunday series – we’re going to be taking a look at some of this season’s biggest match-ups and give a Duck Fan take on them. Today we’re starting off with a look at ASU vs. Missouri
2011 Missouri Tigers:
Conference: Big 12
MU returns 9 starters from last season (losing a QB and center). The Tigers should be able to move the ball effectively through both the air and ground game. The Tigers will open up with Miami of Ohio on September 3 and this should give them an opportunity to fine-tune their running attack before having to face off against Arizona State on the road in Tempe.
Looking at the spread running game, the Tigers look to be well prepared to rack up some serious yards. The Tigers should own the edge against almost any team in the country with two solid tackles returning to anchor the offensive line. LT Elvis Fisher (6’5 295lb) has 40 consecutive starts under his belt and on the right side true sophomore Dan Hoch (6’7 240lb) is a future first round NFL draft pick. Together the line only gave up 22 sacks on the year. Fisher’s leadership should help to bring along the center and protect first year starting QB James Franklin.
Franklin is a great fit for the Tigers and their spread offense. He is a fast vertical runner with good touch on his ball. He should be able to adjust quickly to his new role in the team with the help of many returning skill positions both in the back field and in the receiver corps.
If Missouri can duplicate or improve on what they did in 2010 watch out Big 12. Featuring three standout targets, Franklin should have an easy transition from the head phones to the turf. At WR Jerrell Jackson a three year starter will be a threat in space running down field. Coming back from a solid season in the slot position, T.J Moe (All Big 12 with over 1,000 yards gained) should be getting his hands on a lot of balls underneath the secondary. The possibly Missouri’s best offensive weapon (was voted MVP by the team after 2010 season) is TE Michael Egnew (6’6 245 lb). He recorded 90 receptions for 762 yards and 5 TD’s.
I would not worry about the Tigers not having a clear cut tailback – they do have four talented young men capable of being successful in the spread system.
Missouri leads the Big 12 in 2010 as the leading scoring defensive unit. Can they duplicate this year? Missouri lost five starters and they are inexperienced in the secondary. Strong safety, Kenji Jackson, will have to step up and help to grow up his fellow DB’s before having to square off with an air attack like Arizona State.
The Tigers need to have great play from their line backers and their man this season is going to be 6’2″ 225 lbs junior weak side LB Zaviar Gooden. Zaviar recorded 85 tackles and had 5 takeaways. Missing from the group is a stand out middle line backer. Missouri will need to have someone step up to fill this role.
The defensive line is big in the middle and fast on the edge. Featuring a total of 600 lbs between the two defensive tackles, and with senior end Jacquies Smith, they should be able to provide a solid rush giving offensive tackles around the country trouble.
It’s not all roses for the Tigers. When they are on top they look really good, beating teams like Oklahoma, and crushing Miami last year, but Nebraska and Iowa moved the ball dominating on the ground. The Tigers are still a solid team who went bowling in Arizona last season. This team is no stepping stone and with Nebraska out of the conference they should contend for the Big 12 title (A Texas slip up would help) and a trip to the Cotton Bowl this year.
Arizona State Sun Devils:
Conference: Pac 12
“It’s Time!” ASU brings a new slogan and logo to the table this season. Has ASU underachieved during the Dennis Erickson era, or has the coach been building up his program, recruiting his players, and developing his system in order to put a fork in the competition? Tempe is ready for a winner and make no mistake, despite the lack of post season appearances, this school has produced some tough teams and 2011’s squad shouldn’t disappoint.
ASU is an exciting team to watch. People love to see the ball thrown as much as possible and the Sun Devils are right up there with the best. However they lack depth in the pivotal QB position. Starting two games last season, Brock Osweiler (all 6’8 of him) will be the signal caller.
Brock should have plenty of time to throw the football as ASU returns their entire starting offensive line with four more guys ready to go off of the bench. Having nine legitimate offensive linemen can go a long way towards having a successful bowl worthy football team.
Next up for the Devils are the wide receivers. Playing in a fast paced system (ASU will go into a no huddle offense) these guys must be able to run sharp routes, adjust to coverage, and turn small plays into big gains. Here is a name we know, Aaron Pflugrad from Sheldon High School in Eugene Oregon. Pflugrad transferred from the University of Oregon to ASU where he will be able to showcase his route-running ability. The strength of the wide receiver group will be with Gerell Robinson and Mike Willie. Each standing at 6’4 these two gentlemen should rack up some huge numbers for the Sun Devils.
A big part of the ASU offensive attack is their screen package. In order to take pressure off of the young QB, ASU needs to keep defenses honest by throwing plenty of wide receiver and tailback screens into the mix. Cameron Marshall at tailback needs to develop more patience as a runner in the open field. Last year he looked rushed and could have cashed in on some bigger plays if he would have set up blocks for his offensive lineman down field. Cameron was voted honorable mention all Pac-10 last year (average of 5.2 yards per carry) which is saying a lot with the tremendous talent floating around at tailback within the Pac-10 last season. The Sun Devils should look for a speedy runner to compliment Cameron in the back field. The running game needs to improve if ASU wants to finish around the top of the conference in 2011.
ASU will rely on Vontaze Burfict to spearhead their 4-3 defense from the linebacker position. He is big, strong, and fast. I don’t know if you can name a scarier LB playing football in college. Number 7 will be flying all over the ball this season. Arizona State is inexperienced and plagued with injury in the defensive secondary. Maybe the biggest question is how good are the two new guys going to be at DT? Make no mistake about it the Sun Devils were lights-out run stoppers last season leading the Pac-10 in rushing defense and a big reason why they went 4-2 at home playing aggressive downhill “D” in Tempe.
ASU will plug-in the players needed to match last season’s numbers on defense. They have the athletes and system in place to be a force, but they will need to do a better job stopping opponents in the air as they move forward to a new chapter in Sun Devil football.
Getting to a Bowl game will require beating quality nonconference opponents and both schools have one on this matchup. The Tigers of Missouri are coming off of a successful season that saw them in the Insight Bowl against a regional rival the Iowa Hawkeyes. Missouri ended up losing that game 27-24. ASU finished 6-6 in 2010. So this September 9th will showcase a great college matchup between two outstanding conferences the Pac-12 and the Big 12. This has all the makings to become a shoot out between two teams that love slinging the ball around in 4 and 5 wide receiver sets.
Both teams seem to be focusing on developing a more consistent running game. I believe that this area is pretty close. Both teams play the 4-3 with big boys up front and sharks playing LB. Whoever wins this category should win the ball game.
The lack of play-makers in both teams’ defensive secondaries spells huge numbers for Osweiler and Franklin. I believe that Missouri has better receivers but ASU is brining the bigger gun. 6’8 Brock Osweiler has a cannon and he will showcase it against the Tigers.
ASU plays in a much tougher conference this season. Utah will bring a hefty punch to the once Pac-10. On the other hand the Big 12 takes a step back losing Nebraska. Don’t take this the wrong way, I have a lot of respect for the teams in the Big 12 but the edge in this category goes to the Sun Devils and the Pac-12.
This game will come down to five total plays. Fumble, pick, breakdown in coverage, or a huge special team play will sway this game one way or another. Who will make a mistake and who will capitalize? Defense and special teams will win this ball game. Week one will not let us in on any secrets with both schools playing a soft opponent (ASU opens against UC Davis and Missouri kicks off with Miami of Ohio). This match-up will be a tough, well fought one, and I for one am looking forward to it.
If I was a gambling man I would take the home team straight up but I wouldn’t bet the house on it. Good luck ASU, keep the Pac 12 non conference wins going!