Arizona State (3-1) at California (1-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 29, 4:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Memorial Stadium (61,500) -- Berkeley, California. Television: FX. Home Record: ASU 3-0, California 1-1 Away Record: ASU 0-1, California 0-2. Neutral Record: ASU 0-0, California 0-0. Conference Record: ASU 1-0, California 0-1. Series Record: California leads 17-14.
GAME NOTES: In the second week of Pac-12 conference play the Arizona State Sun Devils take a trip north to Berkeley to tangle with the California Golden Bears.
Arizona State won its conference opener with relative ease last weekend as the Sun Devils dropped Utah 37-7 at Sun Devil Stadium. It was the third home game in four total contests this season for the Sun Devils. The team's only loss this season came on the road, a problem for Arizona State, which is just 3-9 away from Tempe over the last three years.
The beginning to California's season has not been a strong one with the Golden Bears currently 1-3 after a 27-9 loss to USC in the conference opener. California's only win did come at Memorial Stadium when the offense erupted in a 50-31 victory over FCS opponent Southern Utah. The Golden Bears are now 9-5 at home over the last three seasons although that includes the 2011 campaign when California played home contests at AT&T Park, while Memorial Stadium was renovated.
These conference foes have met 31 times previously and it is California that holds the all-time series lead at 17-14. The Golden Bears won last season's matchup 47-38, but the Sun Devils won the last game in Berkeley with a 50-17 victory in 2010.
Under first-year head coach Todd Graham, Arizona State has formed a new offensive identity. The Sun Devils are scoring an impressive 41.2 points per game (second in the Pac-12), while piling up a sizable 1,872 yards of total offense (fourth in the Pac-12 at 468 yards per outing).
Arizona State has been lethal on both sides of the ball in the first and fourth quarters. The Sun Devils have outscored opponents by an 89-10 margin in those two frames, including a 40-0 edge in the fourth.
Quarterback Taylor Kelly has been an efficient signal caller this season with an rating of 182.2 and a 72.5 percent completion percentage. Kelly has also thrown for six touchdowns, while ranking second on the team in rushing yards (188).
Kelly has been especially fond of throwing the ball to tight end Chris Coyle who has had some impressive numbers this season. His 10-catch performance in week one against Illinois tied Zach Miller for the most by a tight end in Sun Devil history. Overall the junior has caught a team-high 22 passes for 301 yards and a pair of scores.
A stable of running backs has carried the team's rushing attack which has accumulated 750 yards this season. D.J. Foster has been the primary back with 196 yards on 32 carries. Cameron Marshall (32 carries, 95 yards), Marion Grice (26 carries, 159 yards) and Michael Eubank (27 carries, 71 yards) have all been significant contributors.
Graham's squad has also done a solid job defensively this season with the team ranking first in the conference in points (12.8) and yards (274.0) allowed per game. The Sun Devils have been effective thanks to the unit's ability to capitalize on opponents' mistakes with a conference-leading eight interceptions.
Arizona State has also been a strong team when it comes to bringing pressure with a total of 14 sacks, while Chris Young (8.5 tackles for loss), Will Sutton (6.0) and Carl Bradford (6.0) have all been adept at disrupting plays in the backfield.
The nine points California scored against USC was a season-low and was also the worst total in a game by the Golden Bears since also being held to nine points in a 30-9 loss to USC last year. The offense ranks seventh in the Pac-12 in scoring (27.8 ppg) and total offense (411.0 ypg). The team's low scoring totals have been a direct result of the team's performance in the red zone, where the Golden Bears have scored only six touchdowns on 15 trips.
Keenan Allen has finally begun to look like the receiver that caught 98 passes last season. The wideout caught nine passes for 93 yards against USC and is now second in the conference in receptions (29) while amassing 309 yards receiving.
Quarterback Zach Maynard has a efficiency rating of 130.95 this season but has not looked particularly consistent. Maynard has completed a solid 63.4 percent of his passes for 927 yards but has also thrown as many touchdowns as interceptions (four).
Isi Sofele (53 carries, 239 yards) has been the workhorse in the running game while Brendan Bigelow (10 carries, 206 yards 2 TDs) has shown some explosive ability.
Part of the reason California has been unable to put together more wins is that the squad is often playing from behind. The Golden Bears have been outscored 37-7 in the first quarter this season. In all, California is the second worst scoring defense (31.0 ppg) in the Pac-12, while ranking 10th (430.3 ypg) in total defense. Getting pressure and forcing turnovers have not been real strengths, with the team posting eight sacks and seven total turnovers.
Josh Hill (32) and Robert Mullins (31) have each eclipsed the 30-tackle plateau early this season and Steve Williams, who leads the team in solo tackles with 21, is just one behind.
Although California is returning to the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium, the Golden Bears have quite a task ahead of them. The offense has the skill, especially in Allen, to keep up with Arizona State, but to do so Maynard needs to cut down on the mistakes. That will be easier said than done against an Arizona State defense that has feasted on errant throws this season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arizona State 31, California 27
09/26 10:48:45 ET