Arizona vs. ASU: Previewing the Sun Devils heading into the Duel in the Desert

USA TODAY Sports

A youthful Arizona group will go up against an experienced ASU squad this weekend in Tempe

The Arizona Wildcats find themselves in a familiar position.  With a record of 7-4 (same as last year) heading into the Duel in the Desert, can the Cats come up with a different result than last year?

To do so, they'll have to play another flawless game on both sides of the ball, just like last week.

Arizona State's defense is no joke.  According to Rich Rodriguez, they start nine seniors on that side of the ball, led by Will Sutton at defensive tackle.  They're ranked second in the conference and 18th in the nation in total defense.

"It might be the oldest defense in the country," said Rodriguez.

Will Sutton this year has 3 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss, and even an interception.

"What concerns you is that very few people can block him one-on-one for a consistently long period of time.  He's strong, active, has a lot of instincts.  He's a first-rounder in my opinion."

RichRod is definitely impressed with the entire front seven though.

"Veteran, mature, really really good football players.  You can tell they're smart football players, and I think several of them will be playing on Sundays, starting with No. 90 (Sutton)."

Linebacker Chris Young (another senior) leads the team in tackles with 84, including 11 TFLs.  Arizona's leading tackler this season is Marquis Flowers, who has 78.  Scooby Wright leads the Wildcats with 9 TFLs.

ASU's leader in interceptions is Robert Nelson (another senior).  He's got six picks this year, as well as two fumble recoveries.

Offense

The Sun Devil offense may be without Marion Grice this week, who was injured in the UCLA game last weekend.  But that shouldn't affect their offense too much, with Taylor Kelly running the ball, and Deantre Lewis is a viable backup.

"He's got tremendous ball skills," said Rodriguez of Grice.  "Offensively they've got some weapons, and they do a good job with it.  They've got some other good backs too."

This offense revolves around Kelly though, Grice or no Grice.  Kelly throws for about 278 yards per game, and adds another 37 per game on the ground.

"I think he gets rushing yards more on design, but he'll scramble too," said Rodriguez.  "He can run, a big guy, very athletic, and they'll have some zone read stuff and some principles like that and he'll take advantage."

"One of the most intelligent quarterbacks in college football based on the decisions he makes and what he does with the ball."

ASU's leading receiver is Jaelen Strong, who averages 84 yards per game, and has six touchdowns this season.  Strong is 6-4, so look for Shaquille Richardson and Jonathan McKnight on him all night.

Also look for D.J. Foster to get his fair-share of targets out of the backfield on Saturday.  The sophomore running back is second on the team in receptions, just ahead of Marion Grice.

By the Numbers

Here's how the Arizona schools stack up head-to-head statistically.  Numbers in () are their national ranks.

UA ASU
Total offense 455.2 (33rd) 472.8 (23rd)
Total defense 398.6 (61st) 344.4 (18th)
Rushing offense 267.4 (12th) 186.4 (45th)
Passing offense 187.8 (98th) 286.5 (26th)
Scoring offense 33.8 (39th) 41.9 (10th)
Scoring defense 21.6 (29th) 25.2 (55th)
Rushing defense 166.6 (67th) 123.4 (19th)
Passing defense 232.0 (71st) 221.0 (48th)
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