The Sun Devils come back to Tempe this week to play a homecoming game against the Washington State Cougars, who just happen to be a surprise co-leader in the North Division. ASU has won six out of the last seven games in Sun Devil Stadium against the Cougars, with the only loss coming back in 2001. ASU averaged 41.5 points per game in those seven contests, while surrendering just 13.7 points per game.
Let’s see where both teams stand from a statistical standpoint:
OFFENSIVE & DEFENSIVE STATISTICS
RED ZONE EFFICIENCY
THIS WEEK’S STAT 12-PACK
1. In the first three games this year, only 15-percent of ASU’s drives were three and out, whereas in the last four games, 46-percent of the drives ended with three and out.
2. In the first six games this year, the Cougars have scored 16 rushing touchdowns, whereas in the two previous seasons they only scored 13 total.
3. Washington State is second in the conference in turnover margin with eight, and second in interceptions with nine.
4. The Cougars are last in the conference this season in the number of running plays that have covered ten yards or more with only 23 out of 185 carries.
5. This year, half the Cougar rushing touchdowns have come when they are more than a touchdown ahead in the game, while only two have come when they are trailing in the game.
6. Washington State has thrown a pass on fourth down 14 times this season and converted eleven of the passes into a first down.
7. The Cougars have only made two field goals in seven attempts this season, while ASU has made 19 out of 20.
8. In the first half of their games this season, the Cougar defense has only allowed three touchdown passes in facing 107 pass attempts.
9. In two road games so far this year, the Cougars have completed over three-quarters of their pass attempts.
10. In the first three games this season ASU scored 13 rushing touchdowns, while they have only scored five in the last four games.
11. Washington State has generated nine takeaways in the last three games this year.
12. The Cougar offense has scored eleven rushing touchdowns over the last three games, which have all been against conference opponents.
DECODING THE STATS
The numbers point to an ASU offense that appears to be stagnating, while the Cougars seem to be getting the ball in the end zone on the ground lately, and living off a positive turnover margin. That’s something that seems to have escaped the Sun Devils over the last year and a half. In the first three years under Todd Graham, the Sun Devils gained 35 more takeaways than they lost, while over the last year and a half, that number has dwindled to just two. In comparison, the Cougars lost 31 more takeaways than they generated in the first three years under Mike Leach, but are plus seven in the last year and a half.
In the first four seasons under Mike Leach, the Cougars never ended the year averaging four yards per carry or more, however, this season the Cougar ground game is averaging 4.55 yards per carry, which is now higher than ASU’s average of 3.94. The Devil ground game has come to a halt in terms of scoring touchdowns, in that they have only scored two rushing touchdowns in the last three games, as compared to 16 in the first four games. In comparison, the Cougar ground game has scored eleven rushing touchdowns over the last three game.
Another troubling trend facing ASU is that in conference play this year, if the UCLA game is removed, the Devils have averaged giving up 5.2 yards per carry against the other three opponents. This compares to an average of 2.6 yards per carry against the first three non-conference opponents.
The fortunes of these two teams have changed substantially over the last three games, and the stats prove that out. The two primary questions going into this weekend’s game are: can ASU reverse its trends offensively and defensively in the run game, and can the Cougars keep their running game alive while also keeping up their positive turnover margin?
Notice that the WSU passing offense and the ASU pass defense were not specifically addressed, because the stats point out that both have remained somewhat consistent so far this season, in that WSU passes the ball well and ASU defends the passing game poorly. That dynamic may stay the same, so the other stats highlighted above may make the difference in the game.
Sources: pac-12.com, cfbstats.com & Winsipedia