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September 18, 2010

Behind enemy lines: Arizona State

For the first time since 2007, the Wisconsin football team will play a regular season non-conference game against a fellow BCS opponent.

With a 2-0 record, UW welcomes Arizona State (2-0) into Camp Randall for the biggest matchup the Badgers have on their non-conference slate.

Looking to find out more about the Sun Devils, BadgerBlitz.com went straight to the source, ASUDevils.com's publisher Chris Karpman, who provided some insight from behind enemy lines.

Read Karpman's thoughts about the Sun Devils here...

1.) With all the talk of Arizona State's high paced offensive style, where does the run game fit into the scheme and how worried should the Badgers be about that aspect of the game?

Karpman: In fall camp, Arizona State's run game looked as good as it has in a practice setting since running back Ryan Torain was injured in the middle of the 2007 season. The inside zone run blocking scheme appeared to be well designed and the offense executed it at a reasonably high level against a first-team defense that led the Pac-10 in rushing defense last season.

A trio of young running backs -- sophomores Cameron Marshall and Jamal Miles and true freshman Deantre Lewis -- are quick and athletic, providing a versatile balance. The Sun Devils opened strong on the ground against Portland State, racking up huge yards-per-carry numbers and running virtually untouched through holes opened by the offensive line again and again.

But the team took a significant step backward against Northern Arizona, with several interior linemen being blown off the football regularly and the running backs finding no room to operate. It's curious as to which team will show up in Madison.

2.) I see Steven Threet is off to a pretty torrid pace to start the season. Is that a sign that he's playing at a high level or is it more of a testament to who the Sun Devils have been playing?

Karpman: ASU's offense is capable of being relatively potent considering coach Dennis Erickson was very upset following a 450-yards-of-total-offense performance which saw Threet throw for over 350 yards. It was an unbalanced performance, with Threet throwing the ball 49 times and ASU struggling on the ground.

The Sun Devils run a lot of plays and most of the throws are quick and screen-game oriented which leads to a high completion percentage. There have been a lot of dropped passes through two games and some balls thrown behind receivers or late, and it appears there is still a lot of room for growth in the new offensive scheme.

3.) Defensively, it seems the trio of linebackers are one of the strongest the Pac 10 has to offer. What are their strengths/weaknesses and what kind of impact can they have as the game wears on?

Karpman: The starting linebacker trio of Vontaze Burfict, Shelly Lyons and Brandon Magee are athletic and they are terrific in pursuit and cover tremendous ground laterally. The downside to that is they can often over-pursue or get drawn out of position by misdirection. They're also better coming up against the run than in pass coverage, especially Burfict, who has been taken advantage of at times in the middle third of the field.

4.) Sticking with the defensive side of the ball, there's no question the Badgers are going to try and run it. How have the Sun Devil's faired against rushing teams in the past? And is there any concern that the defense is going to wear down especially if the Badgers control the clock like they strive to do each game?

Karpman: This is definitely the key to the ASU defense if it is going to be successful against Wisconsin. Dennis Erickson said the Badgers remind him of Stanford's power run game last year with Toby Gerhart, which was the only team that really ran the ball down ASU's throat all season.

Other teams have had success on the perimeter of the field especially Oregon, but Stanford didn't disguise it's intentions and still had success. The ASU defensive line isn't at full strength. Tackle Will Sutton is academically ineligible for the season and tackles Toa Tuitea and Corey Adams will play at less than 100 percent.

That could lead to ASU more easily wearing down, but there's no question it's the highest priority of the defense.

5.) Finally, how do you see this game playing out? What's your prediction?

Karpman: I have Wisconsin winning 30-24. The Sun Devils will move the ball a little better than some pundits might expect but red zone efficiency will be critical and it's hard to imagine ASU will totally limit the Wisconsin run game. It should be a closer game than the point spread, but the edge has to be with the Badgers.

Lea's prediction:

The Badgers offense will control the clock and Clay and company will wear down the Sun Devil's front seven. UW wins 34-21.

2010 record: 2-0
Against the spread: 0-2



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