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The pick: Why Arizona State will beat Washington State

TEMPE, Ariz. – They’ve said all the right things in interviews and press conferences this week.

And, by all accounts, it could be that the Cougars have pulled all the right strings since Tracy Claeys left his post as defensive coordinator at Washington State. Supposedly, the Cougars have been – apologies for the overused football cliché – “flying around” in practices this week and coaches believe staff changes, and personnel changes, have rejuvenated the defense.

But how much better will things look when it matters? When Arizona State’s Eno Benjamin drives through a hole in the defensive line, are the linebackers finally suited to make a stop? When Jayden Daniels escapes one tackle in the backfield, can WSU’s pass-rushers bring him down on the second attempt? When the ball is in the air, can Daniel Isom, Skyler Thomas, Marcus Strong and Bryce Beekman cover well enough to prevent the big play? And, when they do give one up, can they wipe it from their thoughts and make sure one explosive play doesn’t become two?

The Sun Devils haven’t been overpowering on the offensive end. But UCLA was basically inept and still hung 67 points on WSU. The Bruins have scored just 90 points in five other games combined.

I’m on a need-to-see-it-before-I-believe-it basis with WSU’s defense. Even if Anthony Gordon and the offense can shake off the cobwebs, it’s hard to see them scoring more than 35 or 40 points against an ASU team that’s giving up only 14.4 per game and has allowed just 38 in its four victories.

I suspect it’ll be nothing more than a long, hot day in the desert for the Cougars, who’ll need much more than a bye week to solve their defensive shortcomings.

The pick: ASU 38, WSU 35.

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