Pac 12 Preview: Arizona State Sun Devils At Cal Bears

Matt Kartozian – US PRESSWIRE

A step towards relevancy or a step away from the brink?

That is what’s at stake today in Berkeley. The Cal Bears host the Arizona State Sun Devils in a matchup of two programs who seem to be heading in opposite directions.

Arizona State is looking to get a win on the road as they sit on the cusp of national relevance, hovering on the verge of the Top 25. Head coach Todd Graham is looking to jump start this team in his first season and has found playmakers to get it done.

Cal seems to be floundering, just trying to take some heat off of head coach Jeff Tedford. A home loss to the Nevada Wolfpack started the season off on the wrong foot, and a rough pair of back-to-back road games has left the Bears at 1-3 and looking for answers.

Is Zach Maynard the right fit at quarterback? Can the defense step up and stop somebody? Why can’t all this talent on their offense come together to put points on the board? Finding answers to these questions could determine the future for Tedford at Cal.

Historically, the Sun Devils have not fared well in Memorial Stadium. The last time the Sun Devils went to Berkeley, they got trounced 50-17. ASU hasn’t won in Berkeley since 1997, in fact, which makes getting a win today all the more important for Graham’s turnaround plans. Nothing says “new chapter” like closing the book on a perpetual stumbling block.

The Bears lead the series all-time 17-14, including wins in eight of the last nine matchups. Last season, Cal prevailed in a shootout in the desert, outlasting ASU 47-38 in Tempe.

So who has the edge today? Arizona State boasts an explosive offense that has propelled them to their 3-1 start. Sophomore Taylor Kelly leads the Pac 12 and is ninth in the nation in passer efficiency with a 182.2 rating. He’s thrown for 1,000 yards, completing 72.5 percent of his passes, with six touchdowns to two interceptions while also rushing for 147 yards.

He’s helped by a pair of rushers averaging better than six yards per carry in D.J. Foster and Marion Grace. The offense has been scoring in bunches, averaging 41.3 points per game, good for 15th in the country.

The Bears on the other hand have failed to get their offensive weapons on the same page. Zach Maynard was pegged to take some big steps forward in his second year under center for Cal, but he has struggled to find consistency. He’s completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 927 yards, but has just four touchdowns and four interceptions. The big playmakers, running back Isi Sofele and wide receiver Keenan Allen, have just two combined touchdowns. Getting their offensive weapons on track will be the key to turning around this rough start for the Bears .

So who gets the win today? The Devils have momentum after their blowout win over the Utah Utes last week to get Graham’s first Pac 12 win. The Bears are reeling and left looking for answers. Look for Kelly and the Devils to get their first road win of the season and make the jump into the Top 25.

ASU by 4.

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