It’s been a rough two weeks of travel for the California Golden Bears (1-3, 0-1), who were defeated by Ohio State and USC in back-to-back road games. Now they return home to face the Arizona State Sun Devils (3-1, 1-0) at 1 pm, as they hope to save their season.
Sun Devil side up
– Cal quarterback Zach Maynard has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and four touchdowns through the first four games of the season, but pass protection has been a glaring issue for the Bears. Maynard has taken 18 sacks this year, and it won’t be any easier on Saturday – the Sun Devils are the NCAA’s sixth-best pass rushing team with 14 sacks in 2012.
– That being said, head coach Jeff Tedford may have to look to his running backs to keep the chains moving and put points on the board. Isi Sofele and CJ Anderson have gotten the bulk of the carries for Cal this season, but it looks as if Brendan Bigelow will get a bigger role this week after going nuts against OSU and then going missing in their loss to Southern California.
Coach Jeff Tedford said sophomore tailback Brendan Bigelow will continue to be mixed more into the offensive game plan as he absorbs all aspects of playing the position.
“It’s a work in progress with Bigelow still,” Tedford said. “You want to make sure he has an effect on the game. But there’s a lot more to it than running the football. He continues to learn.”
– Even with all the running backs clicking, it still won’t be easy for the Bears offensively; the Sun Devils boast the No. 1 scoring defense in the Pac-12 and they lead the nation in tackles for a loss.
– ASU’s quarterback, sophomore Taylor Kelly, has been phenomenal this season, passing for 1,000 yards and six touchdowns, while boasting a 72.5 completion percentage. He had his best game of the season last week, going 19-26 for 326 yards and three touchdowns in the Sun Devils’ 37-7 trouncing of Utah.
Sun Devil side down
– Historically speaking, advantage goes to the Bears in this matchup. Cal is 8-1 over the Sun Devils in the Jeff Tedford era, and they’re looking to make it five straight this weekend. It gets better: Arizona State is 5-16 on the road since 2008, and that includes their only road game of the year – a 24-20 loss to Missouri in Week 3.
– Although they only have seven turnovers this year, four of them came in their road loss to the Tigers. Certainly it’s a small sample size, but it’s still indicative of a sloppy road play.
– Running back Cameron Marshall, the Sun Devils’ most potent offensive threat in 2011, is off to a slow start this season with only 95 yards on 30 carries. Last year he rushed for 1,050 yards and 18 touchdowns.
– Arizona State’s 3-1 record looks great on paper, but it may be a little bit misleading: They’ve played Northern Arizona, Illinois, Missouri and Utah, and as the Arizona Republic points out, they have “faced a first-team quarterback for all of 14 snaps.”
– Also a good sign for the Bears’ homefield advantage: Taylor Kelly has averaged 274 yards passing and a completion percentage of 76.8 in the Sun Devils’ home wins. However, he passed for only 178 yards in their loss at Missouri and his completion percentage was a modest 60.9.