SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Arizona State contends with a variety of offenses in the Pac-12 conference.
From the Air Raid at Washington State to the power running game at Stanford to the pro styles at Southern California to the fast-paced option at Oregon.
None of that will prepare the Sun Devils (7-5) for what they will face on Saturday in the Fight Hunger Bowl when they take on Navy (8-4) and its vaunted triple-option running attack.
"Honestly it's totally different from everything we've seen all season and my five years here," linebacker Brandon Magee said. "Their offense is really disciplined. They can get the ball to the quarterback, they can pitch it, they can hand it off to the fullback and they can also beat you deep on some passes if you fall asleep on the passing game. Very explosive offense."
Navy is sixth in the nation in rushing with 275.6 yards per game and has won seven of eight games heading into the bowl matchup against the Sun Devils.
Arizona State coach Todd Graham said he would have been "miserable" if this game was in the regular season and he only had a few days to prepare. He hopes his past experiences going against triple-option teams and the extra practice before the bowl game will help his team's preparation.
The Sun Devils have gone to unusual measures in their preparation, using cornerback Robert Nelson as the scout team quarterback simulating running plays.
"The knowledge of the triple option and being able to put it on the board and being able to talk about it is one thing," Navy slotback Bo Snelson said. "But to go out and practice and have guys who have never run it before, guys who aren't as in tune to the nuances of the offense and have them run it at the speed we do, that's extremely difficult to do."
Stopping the option is simple in the abstract — players must be disciplined enough to stay with their responsibility and not try to freelance, which can open up big running lanes.
It's appropriate that discipline is the keyword in the final game of Graham's first season as coach because that has been the key to the team's success all year.
Graham took over from Dennis Erickson and immediately set out to change the culture that led to the Sun Devils leading the nation last year in penalties per game and penalty yardage. This season Arizona State is tied for the 11th fewest penalties in the nation and is hoping for its first bowl win since 2005.