Undoubtedly, somebody on ESPN before Thursday’s kickoff will point out that ASU’s pass defense ranks a meager 98th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
What does that really mean as the Sun Devils prepare for Arizona’s vaunted No. 9 passing offense? Nick Foles, who passed for 448 yards against Oregon last Friday, should pick his yard total now, right?
But didn’t USC, which has a worse passing defense of No. 112, beat Arizona in Tucson almost three weeks ago? And look at Auburn, which is No. 1 in the BCS standings, but has a pass defense that is No. 106 — worse than ASU’s, if you believe the numbers. What’s more is didn’t Oregon toast Arizona despite Foles’ career game?
No, what matters most in Arizona’s quest to regain its mojo and stop a three-game losing streak is to return to what it did best the first seven games — control the run. Nothing else matters. Foles could pass for 500 yards, but if ASU running back Cameron Marshall, who had 147 rushing yards last week against UCLA, plays well again, the Sun Devils have a legitimate chance to win.
In the UA’s three-game losing streak, the Wildcats’ run defense has allowed 217 rushing yards to Stanford, 205 against USC and 389 against Oregon. That’s 811 rushing yards in the last three games after the Wildcats allowed 707 to their first eight opponents.