Two minutes with Doug Haller, the former Commercial-News writer who covers the Sun Devils for the Arizona Republic
How has the transition with the coaching staff gone?
Among Todd Graham's top priorities the past nine months: Installing discipline. (It was actually written into his contract.) Obviously, previous coach Dennis Erickson had a more relaxed approach. He let his players play, and while it worked at places like Miami and Oregon State, it failed here. ASU was among the nation's leaders the past four years in penalty yards per game. Graham has come in and changed the culture. Players can't wear hats or earrings in the football offices. On the field, they are not allowed to say anything to the opponent. The only phrases they're allowed to say to officials: "Yes, sir" and "No, sir." For one week, it's worked. In the opener against Northern Arizona, ASU had just four penalties for 30 yards. The defense wasn't flagged once.
What's the impression of the Illinois program there?
I went to Indiana University (back during the Lou Henson-Bob Knight days), so I never cared much for the Illini, but people here have a healthy respect. According to ASU research, 167,381 Illinois natives currently live in the Phoenix area, so I expect you'll see a lot of Illini fans inside Sun Devil Stadium. (Whenever the Cubs play the Diamondbacks, the crowd is about 50-50.) Bottom line: Illinois is a Big Ten school. Therefore, I think most people view today's game as a pretty big test.
The forecasted high on Saturday is 102. Is this considered a mild day?
Don't get me started. Anything under 105 is considered mild for this time of year. We have about another four weeks of crazy temperatures before it finally cools off. I've lived here seven years and this has been the worst summer I have experienced.
Did Taylor Kelly win over many fans in the opener?
He started to. Kelly, an Idaho kid, made his first career start last week and he performed better than just about everyone but his family expected. He completed 15 of 19 for 247 yards and a touchdown. He overthrew his tight end down the middle of the field twice, but for the most part he was on target. The problem is, ASU's backup is Michael Eubank, a 6-6, 235-pound redshirt freshman. He reminds a lot of people of Cam Newton, and naturally, fans want to see him on the field as much as possible. Eubank will be used situationally today, but Kelly is this team's best quarterback right now.
How many Brock Osweiler jerseys have you seen out there?
From our spot way, way, way up in the press box, I'm lucky just to follow the ball. Seriously, the press box at Sun Devil Stadium is up among the clouds. I don't think I've sat in a press box that's located farther from the field.
Give us a prediction with a brief explanation.
Arizona State 24, Illinois 20. These teams followed almost the exact same path last season. Quick start, high hopes, a slip up, a losing streak, two fired coaches. I expect tonight's game to be a lot like last year's. Close. Somewhat low scoring. ASU prevails, only because it's in Tempe.