Last week was awesome wasn’t it Cougar fans? Let’s do it again tonight. BYU will face the Arizona State Sun Devils at 8:15 pm MST in what will be the first ranked match up in Lavell Edwards stadium since 2009. If nothing else, this game might feature the best uniform matchup of the weekend, but the football should be pretty good too. Here’s what you need to know about the Sun Devils.
There are two names you might as well get familiar with now: Jayden Daniels and Rachaad White. Daniels enters his second sophomore year as one of the highest-touted quarterbacks in the PAC-12, recording a passer rating over 145 every year he’s been at ASU. That said, he is more of a “one read and take off” kind of QB, but boy can he take off. He leads the team in rushing, averaging nearly 9 yards per carry on 19 attempts this year. He’s an efficient passer but will not dazzle you with his arm. Last week against UNLV he was 2 for 6 on passes that traveled more than 10 yards in the air with one touchdown and a pick.
His backfield mate Rachaad White provides homerun ability in a bulky 6’2 210lbs frame. He’s not particularly shifty but can run away from defensive backs and has a nose for the endzone. He has four touchdowns in two weeks and provides a solid option for Daniels out of the backfield with a team leading six receptions. The Sun Devil pass catchers are big and physical, presenting matchup problems all over the field. Every receiver but one is over 6’1 200lbs and both tight ends are over 6’7. None have put up gaudy numbers yet this season, but WR Ricky Pearsoll especially has shown to be an explosive option in both the pass and run game.
The Sun Devil defensive scheme bears striking resemblance to what we see at BYU under Ilaisa Tuiaki. They like to rush 4 and run mostly zone on the backend but will bring creative blitzes when the moment is right. The Sun Devils front seven recorded 5 sacks last week, 2 of which coming from stud linebacker Darien Butler. Butler will be seen all over the field on Saturday. He leads the team in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, INTs, and partridges in pear trees.
The Sun Devils also boast two incredibly strong corners in Chase Lucas and Jack Jones, who will be able to hang with BYUs talented receivers in one-on-one matchups. The defense has looked solid against admittedly weak opponents so far this season but appear vulnerable at times against mobile quarterbacks. UNLV QB Donald Brumfield who averaged over five yards per carry and a touchdown last week.
A game that forces Daniels to throw from the pocket is a game that favors BYU but forcing him to throw is hard to do. He is not a patient passer who will step up in the pocket and make a big throw when under duress. In fact, he has run 89% of the time when facing pressure this season and has only thrown one pass from a pocket that wasn’t clean. If BYU does bring pressure, they will experience the full impact of Jayden Daniels running ability.
He is faster than anyone on BYUs front 7 and we will probably see a myriad of plays where Daniels or White appear to be bottled up in the backfield only to squirt out into the open field. Therefore, BYU will need to play assignment sound football at all 11 defensive positions to keep Daniels under wraps. The easiest way, though, to force Daniels to throw is a fast start from the BYU offense forcing ASU to keep up.
I expect to see ASU run a lot of drop-7 zone on defense, which in my opinion, favors BYU. BYU will have plenty of intermediate routes open over the middle, meaning tight ends Isaac Rex and Dallin Holker will have their moments to shine early on after mostly being asked to pass protect the last two weeks. BYU’s offensive line looked tremendous last week, and I expect a similar performance on Saturday.
Running lanes will be there against a four-man rush, leaving Tyler Allgeier a good three yards to get a head of steam before he meets his first tackler. That’s advantage Tyler. As the linebackers are forced to cheat up to stop the run, deeper routes will be open, and this will be the game where Hall connects to a streaking Nacua.
Both teams will be able to put up points. BYU seems poised for an offensive breakthrough and this will be the game it comes together. Additionally, this will be the loudest crowd ASU has played in front of since October 2019 and will likely be the loudest they face all season. Jaren Hall's dynamic dual-threat ability and the crowd at Lavell Edwards Stadium are the difference Saturday as BYU gets just enough stops to pull out the win.
BYU 31 – 24 ASU