The Khalil Tate show hit a pothole last week in Eugene against the Oregon Ducks. Tate, for the first time this season, was shut down by an opposing defense. He ran for just 32 yards, his lowest rushing total on the year by far. And just like that, his hopes for the Heisman went up in flames. If Tate found a way to put up monster numbers against Oregon, and then did it again this week in a rivalry game, things would have started to get interesting. Oregon took the interesting out of the debate, though. The recipe to stop Tate was simple: play fast and take perfect angles. The Oregon defense has improved significantly in the last year, and they’re playing a whole lot faster. They aren’t on the offenses level with respects to speed, but they are getting much better.
So, it sounds simple, just throw some speedy defenders at Tate and all will be well. The Ducks allowed ZERO running lanes for Tate to burst through. If they did, he would have had a lot more than 32 rushing yards. While Oregon made it look easy, Arizona State are going to have their hands full. The worst thing the Sun Devils could do is look at the Oregon tape and think it’s going to be that easy. USC pulled up in the second-half against the Wildcats earlier this year, and Tate ran all over them as Arizona nearly pulled off a huge comeback. Oregon watched that game tape and knew they couldn’t let up.
The Arizona defense fell victims to the return of Justin Herbert last week. Herbert, Oregon’s starting quarterback, made his return to the field and immediately made an impact. His presence alone opened up the running game for the Ducks. It was another example of how the Arizona defense has some growing up to do. They are young, with inexperienced players littering their defensive unit. There is talent to be had, but it will take another year or two before they come full circle.
Case in point, a taunting call brought back a pick-6 for Arizona. Have to be smarter and more mature than that. Arizona could be a sleeper in the Pac 12 next year if the defense takes steps forward and Khalil Tate stays healthy. If he works on his passing game in the offseason, good luck slowing their offense down. The Wildcats enter with a record of 7-4, and Arizona State counter at 6-5. Both are going bowling, but it’s rivalry night in Tempe. Head below for our free Arizona vs. Arizona State pick.
Arizona Wildcats vs. Arizona State Sun Devils Betting Odds:
vs. Arizona State +2(-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Arizona vs. Arizona State Pick:
Since coming off the bench against Colorado on October 7th, Tate has rushed for 1,325 yards and 11 touchdowns. That equates to a 10.6-yard average on the ground. Despite getting boggled up against Oregon, his numbers are still jaw dropping. The Wildcats also have a couple of productive runners. Both Nick Wilson and J.J. Taylor are rushing for over 5 yards a pop. Nick Wilson was the only real threat that did anything against the Ducks, though. Arizona are ranked 9th nationally with 500 yards per game.
That’s thanks to their dynamic quarterback. On the ground, the Wildcats are gashing opponents for 331.6 yards per game, 3rd in the nation. Tate has thrown for 9 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. That doesn’t look good, but he is capable of completing passes downfield. If he’s hot, it can be tough to break him out of a rhythm. If he’s cold, it’s not the best look. However, Tate will not have to contend with a good pass defense in Tempe.
The Wildcats punched the Sun Devils in the mouth last season, as current backup quarterback, Brandon Dawkins, ran all over them for 183 yards and 2 touchdowns. In total, Arizona ran for over 500 yards on Arizona State. Dawkins also connected for a touchdown with his arm. Arizona came out with a 56-35 win in Tucson. Their defense has improved since last season, but they’re still allowing 172.9 yards per game on the ground. The last elite running game Arizona State played was against USC. The Trojans ran for 347 yards and Darnold passed for 3 touchdowns.
Their run defense has improved some, but their secondary is still in shambles. The Arizona State defense likes to blitz, they blitz, and then they blitz some more. It leaves corners on an island out in the secondary. They’re 120th against the pass and have had issues in the passing game. This poses a couple of problems. If Tate gets past the blitz and into the second level of the defense, he’s going to get chunk yardage often. If the blitz doesn’t get to him in the backfield, he’ll dump it off and Wilson or Taylor are going to run for a while. Arizona State are 111th on defense overall.
The Sun Devils must get a big game from Manny Wilkins. Wilkins has been solid with 14 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He’s also rushed for 241 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground. Wilkins led Arizona State to an average of 39.3 points per game the last three weeks. The Sun Devils should be find against an Arizona defense who are allowing 471 yards per game for 120th. In the last five years, there’s been an average of 82.2 points scored on average in the duel in the desert. The lowest scoring game out of those five was 75 points in 2012. There were 89 points in 2015 and 91 points in 2016. The defenses haven’t really gotten better, and the offenses can still pile up points. In the case of Arizona, they’ve gotten better offensively. I can’t see Tate getting neutralized two weeks in a row. Take the OVER and watch the scoreboard light up in Tempe on Saturday.
PICK: OVER 74 (-110)