It is mid season so the statistics are starting to mean something going into these games. There is an old saying about stats that goes. "Figures don't lie, but liars can figure, so I figure you're a liar." That being said are the teams stats going into this game skewed a bit by strength of schedule?
Just for example according to the Sagarin ratings the Huskies (3-3) are the 31st best team in the country and have played the toughest schedule in the country with a 80.50 rating. ASU (3-2) on the other hand is only ranked 56th by the Sagarin computations. Their schedule strength is rated 64.40 which gives them the 101st strongest schedule in the country through last week.
ASU has feasted on lesser opponents which have inflated their statistics. You can't compare a schedule of LSU (11), USC (4), Idaho (57), Stanford (27), Notre Dame (17) and Arizona (20) with ASU's which features Idaho State (193), Louisiana Monroe (92), Georgia (40), Oregon State (35), and WSU (118).
Arizona State is averaging 29.8 points per game this season. Washington is averaging 26.8. Washington is giving up an average of 28.5 points per game while the Sun Devils are only giving up 15.8 which is second to only USC in the conference.
Arizona State is averaging 138.6 ypg on the ground. The Huskies are averaging averaging 120.8 ypg. The Huskies are giving up an average of 161.3 ypg on the ground. ASU on the other hand is leading the conference by allowing only 49.6 per game.
The Huskies are second in passing offense ringing up 237.2 per game. ASU is not far behind at 214.4. Total offense is a good indicator of where these teams are right now. Washington is averaging 358 and ASU is averaging 353. Another key indicator is passing efficiency UW is rated at 130.1 while the Sun Devils are at 105.7 which puts them only ahead of WSU in the conference.
Washington is second in the conference for first downs with 120. ASU only has 97. A key stat is third down conversions. UW leads the conference at 53.3 %. ASU is converting at only 30.6%.
ASU coughed up the ball six times against WSU. Despite that they still lead the Pac 10 with a plus seven turnover ratio. Washington is at plus three which is good for third in the conference.
There is a wide gap in total defense. ASU leads the league by limiting teams to only 221 ypg. The Huskies are near the bottom giving up 373. Only WSU has given up more total yards than Washington in the conference this season.
ASU is the most penalized team in the conference this season living up to the Dennis Erickson tradition giving up an average of 83 yards per game in penalty yardage. Washington hasn't been perfect but holds in an edge in only giving up 59.
At first glance while looking at the stats you would assume that ASU can shut down the Husky running game. An even closer look shows that against Georgia they held the Bulldogs to only 92 rushing yards but gave up 242 through the air. The key for Georgia was jumping out to a 14-0 lead before the rains turned the field into a quagmire.
Against Oregon State they held the vaunted OSU rushing attack to only 79 yards. They actually outgained the Beavers 406 to 295 and still lost the game 28-17. The Beavers got out to an early 21-3 lead which kept the Devils on their heals the rest of the game. The Devils don't play well coming from behind.
What this means is Washington will probably not generate much on the ground against the Sun Devils on Saturday. This is another game that the Huskies will depend on Jake Locker to deliver the bulk of the offense. ASU is susceptible through the air if the offensive line can give Locker enough time to throw. They are also susceptible to over running Jake on the blitz which can lead to some serious yards when he decides to tuck it under his arm.
If recent history is any guide the Huskies need to take the lead early in this one because ASU has the ability to control the clock. Washington needs to strike early and put the Devils on their heals. That has been the recipe for success in the two losses they have suffered this season. This is the game where Jake needs to start hitting his targets long and in stride. The Devils can give up the big one's.
Another thing to take a close look at is the turnover ratio. Plus seven is really amazing when you turned the ball over six times last week to WSU. They of course evened that up a bit by feasting on WSU mistakes. Washington needs to force turnovers in this game. The Devils are sloppy on offense despite the high numbers. Washington needs to take advantage of that.
California Deja Vu
What is going on down at Cal?
We all assume that Cal isn't as bad as its 42-3 and 30-3 losses to Oregon and USC seem to indicate.The Bears were supposedly primed for the top ten this season and seemed to have put together most of the pieces needed to finally overtake USC for the Pac 10 crown. Two ugly games against Oregon and USC have moved the Bears from the penthouse to the outhouse. This is starting to a smell a lot like 2007 when the Bears seemed headed for a title only to tank the second half of the season.
Golden Bear fans are openly questioning Jeff Tedford's play calling. They wonder why he is abandoning the running game so early. One time Heisman Trophy candidate Jahvid Best only had 14 carries against the Trojans with only 8 coming in the first half when the Bears were still very much in the game.
Looking back two of Best's first four carries against the Trojans went for good gains (8 and 6 yards) while the others netted minus-3 yards and no gain. Best rushed for 3 yards on his fifth carry of the game, and that's when it looked liked the Bears threw in the towel as far as the running game was concerned.
Opposing defenses are challenging Cal to beat them through the air by putting eight in the box. Cal which has a history of being able to air out with the best of them has responded poorly with Kevin Riley at QB. I saw Cal play early this season a couple of times and was wowed by Best, but Kevin Riley seemed wooden and mechanical to me. Riley ended up completing just 15 of 40 passes for 199 yards against USC and has connected on just 38 percent of his throws during the past two games.
Cal can still salvage this season starting with a win on the road against UCLA this week. It won't be an easy task. While the Bruin offense is struggling the defense is one of the better units in the Pac 10. Neuheisel and his staff have watched plenty of film and they are going to stack the box until Cal can prove they can burn them through the air. Cal's problems are not exclusively isolated to the offense either. The Bear defense has given up 72 points over the last two seeks and they certainly didn't look like world beaters back in Minnesota. The secondary is suspect and UCLA has to figure out a way to exploit it even if they are having QB problems of their own.
You have to figure a bye week is a good thing for team that has been bludgeoned two weeks in a row. The Bears have made the most of it by not taking any time off. Tedford has continued to look for the combinations he needs to turn the season around. One suggestion Jeff...take the time to establish the run this week. Don't give up on it early if you fall behind. Jahvid Best is your best bet to get this thing turned around. A great running back gets better as the game goes on. Give Best the carries to develop that type of game breaking rythmn. If you don't you are going to be in an 0-3 hole you will never climb out of which means Deja Vu 2007.