(Photo: Brett Deckert/WCSN)
Playing on the road is often considered a daunting task for any college football team. Arizona State is no exception to the rule.
This season especially, it has been a rough go away from home for the Sun Devils. They are just 1-2 in games not at Sun Devil Stadium, and the one win was a come-from-behind victory against a mediocre team in UTSA, to put it nicely.
Now the sample size isn’t large by any means, but it is tough not to take notice of how different ASU has looked on the road as opposed to at home.
Looking at the numbers, it’s very revealing why ASU has not been the same team regardless of where they are playing, and a large part of the reason revolves around the run game.
Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage who have looked out of sorts on the road more than anyone else. To put it simply, the run game has not been established when they have played UTSA, USC, or Colorado. The Sun Devils have averaged 95 yards fewer on the ground in those three games. Players like Manny Wilkins and Nick Ralston are also partially responsible for this drop-off, but Richard and Ballage will be the two most important players that will have to perform more consistently, as three of the next five games are on the road.
Wilkins has also been a different player on the road. While he has been hampered by his offensive line at times, him and redshirt freshman Brady White, to a lesser extent, have only completed 45.6% of their passes in the three games, while throwing four touchdowns to three interceptions, not gaudy numbers by any means.
In total the yards per game difference is vast. In four home games, ASU has averaged 459.3 yards per game, while it has just 323.7 on the road.
The defense has been a liability thus far no matter who or where they are playing. The story about the pass defense is well known by now. They are last in the NCAA in pass yards per game, but the home-road numbers tell a different story. Because ASU has faced air raid offenses led by the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Davis Webb, the Sun Devils have allowed about 171 more passing yards at home, despite their 4-0 record.
It’s been the run defense that has not played well on the road. Because they were torched in consecutive road games by Justin Davis and Phillip Lindsey, the Sun Devils have surrendered 188.7 yards per road game and have allowed eight rushing touchdowns.
The defense also has yet to intercept a pass on the road. Game-turning interceptions have played a huge part in multiple Sun Devil wins this season.
You have to assume those defensive numbers will improve in the second half of the road slate, because of the fact that ASU goes on the road to play struggling teams such as Oregon and Arizona and get injured players such as Christian Sam back.
It only takes a casual observer to realize that the Sun Devils have been significantly better at home, blowing out teams rather than getting blown out, but if they want to compete in the Pac-12, the run offense and defense will have to put up stronger numbers on the road.