You can find my answers to House of Sparky's questions HERE. Please give them a follow @HouseOfSparky, and follow Cody @CodyUlm (Editor's note, phenomenal twitter background). Without further ado, lets get into the game, as well as the discussion of the space time continuum rupture that is assured to happen this Saturday night:
- Last week against Oklahoma, Notre Dame struggled mightily against shallow crossing routes and quick RB passes into the flat. Given the speed on the field for the Sun Devils, do you expect a similar plan of attack this Saturday?
Absolutely. You can expect D.J. Foster to be doing most of the damage in that department. Foster is a running back by trade but offensive coordinator Mike Norvell has been featuring him mostly as a slot-man this season. While Marion Grice may have all the touchdowns, Foster remains Arizona State's best big-play threat. And all this talk about how poor the Irish inside backers have been against the pass has to have ASU's coaching staff salivating. Foster had a 74-yard touchdown Saturday against USC by finding the soft spot in the middle of the defense. Even though there was a blown coverage involved, they'll definitely be looking to exploit that again.
- A lot of the talk on the ASU defense centers around Will Sutton. Something we're used to at Notre Dame is the different types of ways people attack Louis Nix -- what weaknesses does Sutton have that can be exploited in the run game?
Sutton's biggest knock had always been his size before he made it a point to bulk up to 300 pounds this offseason. Now, everyone seems to think he's lost that unparalleled first step. I don't know if I agree with that considering he's getting double-teamed on about 85% of his snaps but his production has undeniably been down from a statistical standpoint before the USC game. So I guess if there's a weakness to his game, it's that he hasn't really found a way to work through those double teams yet. I do believe it's a little unfair to knock him for that but the fact remains that the great ones find a way to make their impact felt despite being schemed against. He's also had a lot of pressure heaved upon him as the defensive line injuries continue to pile up. Jaxon Hood has been held out due to a bad hamstring and that's undoubtedly the biggest defensive loss. He's Arizona State's second best space-eater behind Sutton so he'd certainly allow Sutton some more breathing room if he was on the field. That being said, you still have to double-team Sutton at your own risk. Carl Bradford has taken advantage of those opportunities this season and he's an explosive pass rusher in his own right.
- Who is one non-star player that ND fans may not know who is going to have a huge game against the Irish on each side of the ball?
I'm going to go with tight end Chris Coyle. Following his breakout 2012, Coyle had been horrendously under-utilized this season before getting back in the fold against USC. The Sun Devils offense always seems to operate at its most efficient level when he's involved so I imagine they'll continue to work him in more. Coyle has reliable hands and he's a pretty instinctive route runner. Don't be surprised to hear his name called a few times Saturday.
On defense, I'm going to say linebacker Chris Young. Young currently leads the team in tackles at 29 playing from the weak-side position but now it sounds like they're moving him back to his old SPUR position in hopes of shoring up the perimeter run defense. In Arizona State's defense, the Spur is a sort of hybrid between a linebacker and a safety. While Young is a bit undersized, he's a playmaker in the purest sense of the word. He was third on the team last year in tackles for loss behind Sutton and Bradford. If Arizona State is going to contain George Atkinson off the edges, it's going to be because of Young
- If Notre Dame loses this weekend, most people will turn to the "no embarrassing losses, and beat USC" mentality for the rest of the season. Please share your thoughts on being the ones to take away the joy that was watching Kiffin coach the Trojans from us. It's all some of us had.
First off, thank you for the laugh. I can truly say that this is my favorite question ever in doing these Q&As. From the bottom of my heart, I'm sorry we stole that for you. Kiffin was the gift that kept on giving for opposing Pac-12 teams. But even though he was always the type of guy that we joked should be fired, it was still stunning to see how it all unfolded.
That said, I am happy he's no longer with USC. At least now, the Trojans might have a chance against UCLA at home which will only help Arizona State's Pac-12 Championship chances.
- What are your thoughts on playing this game in Jerryworld, and who will be more terrifying on the enormo-tron: the Sun Devil mascot or Tom Hammond?
Really, all I want is for Sparky and Tom to have a staring contest. Fortunately, this Sparky's eyes aren't as soulless as the short-lived Buzz Lightyear, bumble bee edition (link here: http://www.houseofsparky.com/2013/3/1/4054508/new-sparky-design-asu-mascot-sun-devils-disney). But I still feel like if this Sparky locks into Tom's death gaze long enough, it could tear a hole in the space-time continuum, unleashing the Eye of Sauron upon AT&T Stadium.
- What's your prediction for the game this weekend, and how do we get there exactly?
Let's go with 42-27, Arizona State. Looking at the schedule before the season began, I pegged Stanford and Notre Dame as the two losses in the Sun Devils' murderers' row-esque four game stretch. Now, it's really tough for me to chalk this up to a loss with Notre Dame's inconsistent, borderline lifeless offense. Don't get me wrong, the Irish are going to get their fair share of rushing yards. But Arizona State is aggressive and opportunistic on both sides of the ball. If Notre Dame blinks, they'll step on their throats and won't look back.
One huge factor is that isn't getting enough attention though is the fact that Taylor Kelly has been very "meh" away from Sun Devil Stadium. For whatever reason, he's always been a little more gun shy and a lot more prone to bonehead mistakes on the road. While he probably won't be at his best, I still believe Notre Dame's offense won't be able to keep up with the pace. I can see it being close in the first half as the teams feel each other out. The real damage will be done when Tommy Rees and company begin to pile up the three-and-outs. I do expect Notre Dame's defense to play an inspired game but they're going to spend way too much time on the field for that play to hold strong. All that said, I do wish the very best for you and your readers. We should have a fun one on our hands and passionate fans like y'all deserve victories in these type of must-win situations. Unfortunately, I just don't see this as a good matchup for the Irish.