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Zack Cimini currently stands at 29-18 (62%) in college football this season and 30-9-2 (77%) in the NFL. Interested in winning ATS head to the today’s picks section
In Tempe, Arizona, Arizona State has had a shockwave season. When Taylor Kelly went down against Colorado many people had no idea who Mike Bercovici was. The junior quarterback was one of Todd Graham’s first recruits three seasons earlier. Bercovici went from fans wanting Kelly back immediately in a nationally televised blowout loss to UCLA, too the media stirring a quarterback controversy on a Hail Mary win over USC.
An Arizona State team that was seconds away from being 3-2 suddenly had a pulse. They’ve went on to win five straight games over USC, Stanford, Washington, Utah, and Notre Dame. At 8-1 everything looks good for Arizona State fans as their team sits cozy in the top ten. Yet I’m afraid the quick rise over the last month going 4-1 ATS will reverse course in Arizona State’s final three games.
Arizona State are one of the teams I make sure to watch every week. There are several factors that point to upcoming spread let downs and an eventual exit out of the top ten.
Taylor Kelly’s Struggles
Arizona State is winning but it’s had more to do with an emerging defense than from an offensive standpoint. The defense shut down Washington, Stanford, Utah, and all but one quarter against Notre Dame. Maybe Kelly is still having lingering issues with his foot as he hasn’t shown the same read-option speed from a year ago. Kelly’s read-option capabilities is what separates him from Mike Bercovici. From a passer standpoint Kelly can make the back shoulder throw with the best of them. It’s his pocket presence and accuracy down the field that has been a major problem. It almost cost Arizona State a chance for overtime against Utah. With Arizona State down 16-13 late in the fourth quarter, Kelly threw the football right into a Utah defenders hands that was dropped.
Second Half Coaching Adjustments
Over the last five to seven years Arizona State has been one of the best first half teams in college football. The problem for them has been halftime adjustments. For some reason or another Arizona State is awful at making necessary adjustments to increase their leads or get back into games. I believe it has to do with the simplicity of ASU’s play calling. Offensive coordinator, Mike Norvell relies heavily on Kelly’s read option and designed short route throws to Jaelen Strong and running back DJ Foster. For big plays they mix in a few down field calls for big target, Gary Chambers. The offense lags mightily when the read option isn’t humming. Defensively, Todd Graham’s philosophy has never changed. He calls blitz after blitz after blitz. Teams that can attack Graham’s chess match are going to score a ton of points like UCLA did this season and Texas Tech in January’s bowl game.
Arizona State probably had the best four weeks of matchups any Pac-12 team could ask for. Washington has shown they’re not the same caliber Pac-12 team they have been the last five years. Stanford is also in a transitional phase as a team. Utah hurt themselves by taking a lead against Arizona State and deciding to let their defense win the game. The play calling with a lead was far too conservative. And of course the Notre Dame matchup was a perfect for Todd Graham’s blitzes against Everett Golson. Golson has shown over the last month that he struggles at making quick decisions under pressure, and Notre Dame’s defense wasn’t exactly up to par against far lesser talent than Arizona State.
Kevin Hogan, Everett Golson, Travis Wilson, and Troy Williams have been the quarterbacks Arizona State has faced over the last month. It was Williams first start as Cyler Miles was out due to an injury. Travis Wilson has had to endure starting and being benched multiple times by Utah’s coaching staff. Kevin Hogan has shown he is not a Pac-12 viable quarterback, and Golson has been a turnover machine in seven straight games. Sean Mannion may be the quarterback finally able to challenge ASU’s blitzing style and force Graham to relent on his blitzes.
Arizona State and South Florida are two college campuses that campus life can cause a disadvantage over the course of a season. Arizona State President, Michael Crow, has made it known he wants to lead the country in college enrollment numbers. That has led to an ever-growing campus of over 75,000 people. It has to be tough as an athlete being on a campus that crowded. I’m sure Todd Graham and his staff do their best to not make it a distraction, but with a team now ranked high campus vultures are surely floating around even more.