From the Other Side: Previewing Wisconsin vs. Arizona State with House of Sparky

Christian Petersen

The absence of a Tennessee Tech blog meant a one-week hiatus for this behind-enemy-lines take on Wisconsin's opponent. Today, Cody Ulm of House of Sparky tells us what's up in Tempe.

1. B5Q: To start, how are Arizona State fans feeling about this game? Wisconsin fans can attest to the temptation presented by beating up on cupcakes (Arizona State just obliterated Sacramento State, 55-0). Is Tempe generally confident about getting the Badgers at home and in the the shadow of a pumped-up crowd, or wary of the Big Ten foe?

House of Sparky: The excitement so far has been palpable. The student section sold out early in the week and as of Tuesday morning that was only about 6,000 tickets left throughout the entire stadium. That might be commonplace for the Wisconsin faithful but that type of turnout is a big deal around these parts. Looks like that Blackout Bucky campaign is working after all. As for the confidence, it's hard to say how the fans feel as a whole. Although it is worth noting I've seen the "ASU is 8-0 all-time against Big 10 opponents at home" stat pop up on my Twitter feed about 4,327 times this week.

2. B5Q: Forget about the fact that, again, ASU just won its opener, 55-0. Are there areas of concern within this team that Wisconsin could exploit?

HOS: It's scary to think considering the matchup but ASU's biggest area of concern remains their run defense. Even with all the time emphasis the coaching staff put on improving that flaw this offseason, I still already know that James White and friends are going to run wild Saturday. Arizona State just doesn't have the size to stop power run teams such as Wisconsin. And I don't read too much into the Devils holding Sac. State to 51 yards on 31 carries. The Badgers big play ability is going to prevent ASU from selling out against the run.

3. B5Q: On the flip side, do the Sun Devils appear to have any great advantages over the Badgers?

HOS: I really like ASU's group of pass catchers against Wisconsin's inexperienced coverage unit. While I'm not entirely sold on Arizona State's wide receivers this year, Jaelen Strong did prove his ability to go up and get the ball in Week 1. On top of Strong, ASU still offers two mismatches at tight end (Chris Coyle and De'Marieya Nelson) and two running backs who flash game-changing talent when they line up wide (Marion Grice and D.J. Foster). It's not like the rest of the gang is exactly a bunch of chumps either. Last Thursday, 11 different receivers caught at least one pass. That ability to spread it out is going to force Wisconsin' less-than-battle-tested secondary to pick their poison. And Taylor Kelly is the type of quarterback that will make the most out of whatever the defense gives him.

4. B5Q: What do we need to know about ASU's offense?

HOS: Mainly that they offer as much fire power and as much big play ability as Wisconsin's. And it all starts with Marion Grice. As a man who has seen a lot of talented running backs come through Madison in his day, I think you're going to fall in love with our primary ball carrier. We Sun Devil fans are not as spoiled as y'all are but for my money, Grice has the best vision out of an ASU running back I think I've ever seen. He's instinctive cutter who runs with purpose. Grice's shiftiness in between the tackles is downright filthy at times and when you get him in the open field, watch out.

5. B5Q: What do we need to know about ASU's defense and special teams?

HOS: Can we just skip the special teams portion? I have little faith in ASU's punting ability and Zane Gonzalez, the new kicker, didn't exactly shine Week 1 (2-for-4 overall). Both coverage teams are solid enough though so let's just hope the Sun Devils find pay dirt on each possession. On the defensive end, Arizona State offers an endless supply of pass rushers. I'm sure you're well aware of Will Sutton but expect to Carl Bradford, Chris Young, Davon Coleman, Junior Onyeali and others to find their way into Wisconsin's backfield early and often Saturday. Unfortunately, as a unit, they do lack some bulk (which goes back to the run defense woes). But what they lack in size they make up in leadership. ASU's surplus of on-the-field coaches such as Alden Darby gives Todd Graham the confidence to be aggressive on a regular basis. And that attacking mentality allows them to hide some of their flaws.

6. B5Q: In simple yay-or-nay summation, does Arizona State hold an advantage over Wisconsin on offense, defense, special teams, coaching or intangibles?

HOS: Pass-rush wise, yes. I say the secondaries are a toss-up as are each team's offense and special teams. I will admit that I don't know enough about Gary Andersen to say that Todd Graham is superior. But I will say that this team makes a microscopic amount of mental mistakes under Graham which doesn't give the opposition much margin for error, especially on the road. This Sun Devil squad is very mature as well. Everyone holds themselves accountable and doesn't try to do more than what is asked of them.

7. B5Q: Travel tips for Wisconsin fans? Will we be welcomed?

HOS: Win or lose, you've got to hit up Mill Avenue afterwards. It's going to be one great big party Saturday night. As long as you're friendly, I don't see why you wouldn't be welcomed. Wisconsin fans certainly seem like they know how to have a good time and partying is a universal language in Tempe.

8. B5Q: Do you have a prediction?

HOS: This is one of those games that could go either way. I see it being a high-scoring affair, at least in the high 30s for each team. It's really going to come down to which team blinks first. Because I project it being so tight, I feel like home field advantage is going to make the most difference. If this was in Madison, I'd go with the Badgers. But I just feel that the Sun Devils are a team on the verge of erupting on a national scale and I don't see Graham squandering that opportunity. He's going to have his team ready to execute and in the end, I expect ASU to make the fewest mistakes.

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