Don’t watch because you’re expecting much of contest.
Arizona State is undoubtedly going to throttle a seriously outmatched Weber State in its opener Thursday at Sun Devil Stadium. Last year the Wildcats gave up a combined 140 points in back-to-back losses to Utah and Utah State on their way to a 2-10 season, which led to a coaching change at the school.
It’s hard to imagine this rebuilding year will be much worse. It’s also hard to picture it being much better.
Watch because even in a blowout, there’s a lot that can be learned that won’t be simply by knowing the final score of whatever indignity the Wildcats suffer.
Todd Graham knows this. That’s why the Arizona State coach spent quite a bit of time taking his team through the paces last Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium in a mock game that closely mirrored the format it’ll take in the opener, right down to how the players come out of the Tillman Tunnel and even the order they line up in to warm up.
“I don’t want to see any dull eyes,” Graham repeatedly implored his players. “This game is played with a passion. I want to see burning in your eyes.
“I don’t want to see anyone with their palms up on the field. That’s what you do when you don’t know what you should be doing. I want us communicating. I want us knowing what we’re doing.”
You’re not going to learn much about the ASU offense, though. It’ll put up 50-plus points in all likelihood without even breaking a sweat. Heck, it might even do it in the first half.
The defense is where you’ll want to focus your attention and here’s what to look for. Do players look sure about where they are lining up on the field before the snap? Are they loudly communicating with one another? Are they playing freely and at full speed, or are they appearing to be hesitant? Are they tackling properly and not letting an inferior opponent get yards after contact?
Up front, are ASU’s young and inexperienced defensive linemen stout and difficult to move off the football, or are they getting pushed back by what should be the worst offensive line the team plays this season? Is Weber State able to move the ball at all via the ground game inside? Is it doing so relatively well?
If you see a defense that is sure of itself, confident, aggressive, playing at full speed, and giving up no running room inside, that’s a good sign for ASU.
Lapses in any of those areas would be a real problem for the team and would likely linger. Often, following early season games you hear fans, media, coaches talk about the “little things” that have to be “cleaned up” in the week or two ahead.
That type of talk is actually a huge red flag.
In football, the little things are actually very big things, and they’re usually quite challenging to get cleaned up.
We’ll get a great sense of just how tidy this Sun Devil squad is tonight, just not from the scoreboard.