Teams: UC Davis at Arizona State
Records: Aggies, 0-0; Sun Devils, 0-0
Where: Sun Devil Stadium – Tempe, Arizona
When: Thursday at 7 p.m.
Who to watch: Junior captain Ray Wilburn knows that the offensive line will be key to the Aggies’ success this year – both in developing the run game and protecting second year quarterback Randy Wright.
Now in his second year as the starting center, the San Bernardino, Calif. native, knows what is expected of him and the rest of the line.
“Every play starts and ends with us, and the team is only going to go as far as we do,” Wilburn said. “We need to lead the offense.”
Did you know? This will be the second all-time meeting between UC Davis and Arizona State. The first came in 1940, the same year that Shields Library was constructed, and 19 years before UC Davis became an independent campus. The Aggies lost the contest 21-13.
Preview: Since 1940, UC Davis has grown from a small agricultural school to a top-10 public university. Consequently, the athletics department has grown to reflect UC Davis’ stature, with the Aggies’ now fielding 22 competitive Division I teams.
Despite the growth, UC Davis will need an excellent performance to defeat Arizona State.
For the second straight year the Aggies open their season with a challenging match-up against a Pac-12 opponent.
Last year, UC Davis opened the season in front of 58,000 fans at California’s Memorial Stadium. UC Davis managed just 81 yards of total offense, and lost 52-3.
This season’s Pac-12 opponent will not be any easier on the Aggies. While Arizona State is not nationally ranked, they received 67 points in the voting for Associated Press top-25. Additionally, ESPN.com’s Power Rankings have the Sun Devils as the 21st best team in the country, and many regional and national writers have picked Arizona State to win the Pac-12 South.
Despite the obvious challenges of facing a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponent, Coach Bob Biggs is looking forward to the challenge.
“My expectation is that we go out and compete and continue to build on the kind of football team we expect to be,” Biggs said.
Offensively, Wright’s passing will need to be sharp for UC Davis to move the ball consistently. Despite what will be raucous atmosphere in Sun Devil Stadium, Biggs does not foresee any problems in that area.
“Randy [Wright] is such an even-tempered young man,” Biggs said. “He feels and senses pressure well. I fully expect that he will have a good year.”
One challenge for Wright will be avoiding Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict. The junior has been called “the meanest man in college football” and will certainly be playing in the NFL by the time Wright graduates.
Defensively, UC Davis will have its hands full. Arizona State’s dynamic offense is lead by 6’8″ 240 pound quarterback Brock Osweiler. In ASU’s backfield is running back Cameron Marshall, who can break a play for big yards with every touch, and last year leaped over a USC linebacker in one of the most athletic plays of the college football season.
“Their quarterback presents a lot of challenges,” Biggs said. “Defensively, we need to try to put pressure on them to rattle them. Hopefully we can keep any big plays underneath us.”
For center Wilburn, this is just another game.
“It’s just the next game on the schedule,” he said. “We’re going to prepare like it’s any other team.”
– Caelum Shove