Both Arizona State and Oklahoma State got their seasons off on the right foot in Week 1 heading into their matchup in Stillwater on Saturday. The Sun Devils notched a 40-3 win over in-state FCS foe North Arizona, while the Cowboys won a high-scoring 58-44 contest over Central Michigan.
Arizona State (1-0) has a lot of new faces in the program in terms of both players and coaches. The Sun Devils are expected by most to flirt with bowl eligibility this season, and a road win over Oklahoma State would go a long way toward that and set the tone for the season.
Mike Gundy's Oklahoma State squad, meanwhile, expects to once again contend for the Big 12 championship. The Cowboys (1-0) would like this game to serve as nothing more than another tune-up before beginning conference play, but it may not be that easy.
Arizona State at No. 11 Oklahoma State
When Arizona State Has the Ball
The Sun Devils are led by quarterback Emory Jones. The Florida transfer found his way to Tempe after starting for the Gators last season ahead of Anthony Richardson, who is generating some Heisman Trophy buzz after helping Florida upset No. 7 Utah last Saturday. Jones is fairly conservative as a passer, but he can be efficient. He also is plenty capable of doing damage on the ground. Last week against Northern Arizona, Jones ran 11 times for 48 yards and two scores.
When Jones looks downfield to pass, his favorite target is Elijah Badger, who is extremely dangerous after the catch. In the red zone, Oklahoma State will need to account for 6-foot-8 tight end Messiah Swinson, who caught three balls for 50 yards in the opener.
On the ground, when Jones isn't tucking it and running, Xazavian Valladay is the Sun Devils' bell-cow back. The Wyoming transfer eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark twice during his tenure in Laramie. He got off to a great start last week, logging 15 carries for 116 yards and two scores.
When Oklahoma State Has the Ball
Everything starts and stops with one of the very best quarterbacks in the country, Spencer Sanders. He is a dual-threat with a live arm who can control games and fluster defenses on the ground or through the air.
Sanders has a talented corps of receivers to target, including John Paul Richardson, Braydon Johnson, and Brenna Presley. Each one brings a unique skill set to the table and provides Sanders with plenty of big-play options to consider before he leaves the pocket.
The Cowboys prefer to pass or have Sanders run, but when they do resort to a traditional rushing attack, it looks like Dominic Richardson is going to be the guy who gets the bulk of the carries. Arizona State also will need to be aware of running back Jaden Nixon's presence. When he's on the field, he's as much of a pass-catching threat as any of Pokes' receivers.
Despite the double-digit spread, these two teams are not all that different from one another. Both have new faces in key roles. Both have dynamic signal-callers. But only one is currently carrying the pressure of turning in a New Year's Six-caliber season. Arizona State is playing with house money and will be the looser team. Look for special teams and an underrated defense to keep the Sun Devils in the game and keep the score closer and lower than many expect.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 24, Arizona State 20
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— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! SBNation and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.
*Price as of publication.