College Football Preview: Arizona State Sun Devils vs Wisconsin Badgers
The AP ranked No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers will play host to the Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday, September 18 in a week three showdown between the Pac-10 and Big Ten conferences.
Both the Sun Devils and the Badgers enter the highly anticipated game unbeaten—but not fully tested. Arizona State is fresh off two wins over FCS foes Portland State and Northern Arizona, while Wisconsin gained wins over UNLV and San Jose State.
The two teams haven't met since 1968, in which the Badgers lost 55-7 in Tempe, but do not expect anything near a blowout by either team this Saturday.
Arizona State heads into the game having one of the most potent aerial attacks, led by Michigan transfer quarterback Steven Threet. The offense is averaging 352.5 yards a game, which is good enough to place them seventh in the country for this particular category.
While the Wisconsin defense is a very steep and physical unit, the Badgers' secondary allowed 252 passing yards against San Jose State—a flaw that Threet and the high-flying offense will have no problem taking advantage of.
Threet, a junior, has tallied up 630 passing yards and five touchdowns on the season so far, and has beaten the Badgers in the past while starting for the Michigan Wolverines in the 2008 season.
In fact, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema made his team relive the upset loss to Threet and the Wolverines in the film room, stating that "We put it on there to remind our guys what he's capable of doing."
Bielema continued to state that Threet is in a "totally different scheme, and he's a different player now," and that "He's an accurate passer, can make all the throws, has good composure and knows what's going on around him."
The Badgers aren't taking anything for-granted as they head into the game as a two touchdown favorite, and neither are the Sun Devils.
Arizona State has possibly the best defense in the Pac-10, if not one of the best in the country, and one of their goals is shutting down big Wisconsin running back, John Clay.
Clay has broken the 100-yard rushing mark for the last eight consecutive games, and has 260 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the first two games of 2010. But two words may silence John Clay's running attack against the Sun Devils—Vontaze Burfict.
What better a match-up, the Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year against the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
Burfict, a linebacker, stands at 6'3" and 245 pounds, while big John Clay has a stature of 6'1", 255 pounds. The level of ferociousness and physicality that these two players bring to the field is unmatched, and could be one of the deciding factors as to who gets that third straight win.
While the running game for Wisconsin is clearly not a concern, the same cannot be said for the Sun Devils.
After rushing the ball for 242 yards against Portland State in their home opener, the Sun Devils struggled against the NAU Lumberjacks in week two, rushing for just 56 yards. This was shut down by an FCS team, so just imagine what will happen against the huge defensive line incorporated into the Wisconsin scheme.
Another weakness that the Sun Devils must overcome is their tendency to commit unnecessary penalties. Arizona State finished the 2009 season as the most penalized team in the country, and they are heading in the direction to regain that unwanted title.
ASU committed 11 penalties against Portland State, which many disregarded as the team worked out the kinks. But in week two, the Sun Devils were flagged 13 times, the most a team has ever committed under Dennis Erickson and his lengthy career.
The Sun Devils were still able to walk away with wins after consecutive weekends of flags flying, but will not have the same luck against a ranked FBS team in Madison, Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Badgers have won the last 25 consecutive home games against un-ranked opponents at Camp Randall Stadium and won their last 26 against non-conference games regardless of the location.
The Sun Devils haven't won against a ranked non-conference opponent since 1997, when they won 23-12 at Miami.