The Arizona State Sun Devils are on a quest for some national respect. After starting the season ranked outside the top 25 and then bouncing in and out of it the last three weeks, Todd Graham is looking to put together back-to-back quality wins for his program. This week, ASU travels to Dallas to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in their final non-conference game of the season with a red-hot offense filled with confidence and momentum ready to roll a reeling Irish squad.
Over their last six quarters, the Arizona State offense has put up 90 points and currently ranks No. 11 in FBS in scoring (44.3 ppg) and No. 15 in total offense (505 ypg). Last week, the Sun Devils racked up 612 yards in their 62-41 blowout of the USC Trojans, which came into the game as a top-five defense that hadn’t allowed more than 285 yards or 14 points in a game before last Saturday. Graham has his offense clicking using an up-tempo, spread attack that makes it difficult for defenses to match up with.
A major reason teams are struggling to slow down the ASU attack is the play of quarterback Taylor Kelly. The junior signal caller is following up his breakout sophomore campaign in 2012 with a prolific opening third of the 2013 season. He is averaging 342.5 yards passing per game, good for No. 3 in FBS, with 11 touchdowns to four interceptions as he’s completing 61.4 percent of his passes. He seems to get better week after week as he develops into one of the Pac 12‘s best quarterbacks.
He’s helped by the playmakers surrounding him on offense. JUCO transfer Jaelen Strong has quickly built solid chemistry with Kelly and leads the team with 31 catches for 433 yards and two touchdowns. Marion Grice has been dynamic out of the backfield with 12 total touchdowns (8 rushing, 4 receiving) through the first four games, making him a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
That’s a lot to handle for Notre Dame, which comes into the game with three straight losses to ranked opponents dating back to last season’s BCS National Championship blowout loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Their offense has struggled to consistently put points up on the board and currently rank No. 87 in scoring (25.4 ppg) thanks to a stagnant passing attack. Brian Kelly will need his offense to break out of their funk because they need to score points if they are going to beat ASU.
This showdown Saturday will ultimately come down to whether ASU can keep their hot streak rolling on offense or not. Does Notre Dame have what it takes to slow down the Sun Devils’ attack or will the Irish offense be trying to play catch up all afternoon?