Know Thy Enemy: Arizona State's number one priority is Elijah Collins
Know Thy Enemy is a weekly Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of the Spartans to the eyes of MSU football’s next foe. The State News asks the opposing team's beat reporter a few questions to see football through a different lens.
No. 18 Michigan State will look to move to 3-0 when they host Arizona State Saturday at 4:00 p.m.
To help preview this week’s matchup, The State News' Amanda Poole talked with the Arizona State's football reporter Jacob Rosenfarb.
Q: After seeing the improvement in MSU's offense this past weekend, how will Arizona State prepare for the defensive AND offensive challenge?
A: The emergence of MSU running back Elijah Collins has been the dominant topic around the ASU locker rooms in the lead up to Saturday’s game, as the redshirt freshman represents the main difference between this year’s Spartan squad and last year's. His quickness and elusiveness present a host of problems for the Sun Devil defense, as stopping him will likely be ASU’s number one priority heading into Saturday.
Offensively, ASU will look to re-establish a run game led by junior running back Eno Benjamin. The struggles of their offensive line have made running the ball more difficult than anticipated, but there is hope that the greatness of Benjamin can transcend the inexperience that now occupies their offensive line.
Q: Last year MSU fell to Arizona State 16-13, ending with Manny Wilkins' 27-yard pass to N'Keal Harry to set up a last-minute field goal for Brandon Ruiz. How will this year's game differ or be similar?
A: While on its surface there are a number of similarities between this year’s matchup and last year's, it will likely be the differences that define this season’s outcome. The departures of quarterback Manny Wilkins and wide receiver N’Keal Harry has left a massive hole in the offense that the Sun Devil coaching staff is still working to fill. Jayden Daniels has played admirably as Wilkins' replacement, but there is only so much a true freshman can do.
Q: Who has been a surprise player this season on the Arizona State roster? Who should Spartan fans look out for?
A: Offensively, the break out star so far this season for the Sun Devils has been wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. The senior has emerged this season as ASU’s number one option following the departure of N’Keal Harry, and he has responded with two impressive performances to begin the season. What separates Aiyuk are his abilities with the ball in his hand after the catch, as the Sun Devil has already racked up 238 receiving yards including a Pac-12 best, 165 after the catch.
Defensively, the strength of this team lies in the secondary. Cornerbacks Kobe Williams and Chase Lucas are far from surprises, but their consistent excellence helps keep the unit afloat. Defensive tackle D.J. Davidson has likely been the team’s biggest surprise on the defensive side of the ball, coming up huge in ASU’s win over Sacramento State with 5 tackles including 2.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks. An injury cut short a promising freshman season for Davidson, who returns this year as a key figure in the middle of the Sun Devil defense.
Q: What is your score prediction and why?
A: Both Michigan State and Arizona State pride themselves on their strong defenses, explosive running games and efficient quarterback play, all of which should contribute to what will likely be a relatively low scoring game. The difference in quarterback experience (redshirt senior Brian Lewerke vs. true freshman Jayden Daniels) could end up being the determining factor in a game that will likely come down to the final possession.
Prediction: 24-13 MSU