(Photo: Jodi Vosika/ASU Lacrosse)
The biggest game since the start of the MCLA season is here, as No. 1 Arizona State will take on No. 3 Colorado State on Thursday night.
The Sun Devils found their way into the top spot in the rankings after both the Rams and the Colorado Buffaloes each dropped a game last weekend, making ASU the only team in the MCLA’s top-10 that’s still undefeated.
ASU is led by explosive offense as always, averaging 17.4 goals per game. Defensively the team might be even more impressive, as they haven’t allowed more than eight goals in a game all year.
Colorado State, on the other hand, has barely been edging out competition so far in 2014. The Rams have won three games by 1- or 2-goal margins, and they’ve only put up double-digit goals once all year. However, they’ve been having a stellar year defensively, it’s just a question of where the offense is at.
Interestingly enough, this game could come down to the early-goings. Both teams have struggled to build leads in the first quarter of the games they’ve played in, even against far inferior competition, and that could be a factor in Thursday’s match-up.
Players To Watch
All eyes will be on CSU’s platoon-goalie system consisting of Koltin Fatzinger and Jack Regan. The seniors have won back-to-back national championships with their shared-time situation in goal, and this year it’s still working out for the two of them.
However, this will be the toughest offense they’ve faced so far in 2014. Can they continue to get the job done even in the face of tremendous pressure, after a tough loss to rival BYU?
For Arizona State, the question is how well the midfield can integrate itself into the offense. Justin Straker, Dan Davis, and Logan Quinn have been dynamite in the attack, and a lot of that has been due to the immense success of top-end offensive midfielders like Kyle Denis, Cooper Pickell, and Adam Beauchamp.
Whoever leads after the first quarter will win the game. While both teams have dealt with struggles in the first quarter, they’ve never been playing a game of catch-up into the second, except in the instance of the CSU-BYU game, which resulted in the only loss for either team. The opening 15 minutes matter, and they could be the difference-maker in this one.
If this were a betting line in Vegas, this game would likely have a slim spread favoring Colorado State because they’re at home. But so far, home hasn’t been so sweet for the Rams – in their last three games, they’ve pulled out a couple of one-goal victories and suffered a loss.
This game will be a toss-up, but expect it to come down to whichever team can break open the score and go on a run first. It should be a defensive clash, but don’t be surprised if fireworks start going off between these two very potent offensive units.
Game Prediction: ASU 9, CSU 8. It’s not going to be an easy one to pick either way, but Arizona State’s 2014 body of work simply looks better than that of Colorado State’s. The Sun Devils have too much firepower at every position and if their defense holds tight, the Rams aren’t going to be able to make a comeback from an early deficit.
You can reach Trey Lanthier by email at email@example.com or on Twitter, @TreyLanthier.