TOP 25 COUNTDOWN
No. 25 Arizona State
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
2007 record: 10-3, lost Holiday Bowl, 52-34, to Texas
Returning Starters: 6 offense, 7 defense
Key Game: at Southern Cal, Oct. 11
Player to Watch
Rudy Carpenter, Senior, Quarterback
So long as the offensive line holds up, Carpenter should be able to replicate or improve upon last season, when he threw for 3,202 yards and 25 touchdowns. His 65 career touchdowns rank second in the nation among active quarterbacks and his 7,998 career passing yards rank fifth.
Why They're Worth Watching
The Sun Devils offer a well-balanced offense with quick-strike ability. The team plans to employ more four- and five-wide receiver sets this season, which will provide Carpenter with plenty of options. Chris McGaha doesn't pile up a lot of yardage, but he serves as a solid possession receiver, allowing fellow receivers Michael Jones and Kyle Williams to stretch the field with their speed. Running back Keegan Herring also possesses dynamic speed, though he can be more of an east-west runner at times. Shaun DeWitty, who redshirted last season, will spell Herring when the offense is in need of a more direct, smash-mouth approach. In four games last season, Arizona State trailed by double digits after the first quarter but came back to win. Coach Dennis Erickson led the team to 10 victories in his first season and looks to provide consistency that never materialized under former coach Dirk Koetter.
Why They're Vulnerable
The front lines on both sides of the ball will be critical for the Sun Devils. The offensive line allowed a Pac-10-high 55 sacks last season and then it lost its best member -- center Mike Pollak -- to the NFL draft. Protecting Carpenter's blind side at left tackle this season will be sophomore Jon Hargis, who played defense in 2007. True freshmen Zach Schlink and Andrew Sampson drew rave reviews as recruits but will have to develop quickly as starters. Along the defensive line, the ends are strong, but the interior leaves something to be desired. Sophomore defensive tackle Jonathan English lost focus on too many plays as a freshman and will need to provide more consistent support against the run. He did lose 25 pounds in the offseason, which might point to a renewed commitment. Defensive tackles David Smith and Saia Falahola provide the position with considerable depth but not much skill.
No. 24 Alabama