We break down the five keys to a Sun Devil victory over the UCLA Bruins on Saturday's huge Pac-12 South battle
Yesterday, we gave you an in-depth preview of Saturday's huge Pac-12 division match-up between Arizona State and Oregon State.
Now, we break it down to our five biggest keys for a Sun Devil win to get the season back on track.
Stop the Dynamic Duo
See the above photo? That is members of ASU's secondary tackling Markus Wheaton, the outstanding wide receiver. Stopping Wheaton is no easy task, and in order to win today, the Sun Devils will need to do that AND do the same to Wheaton's counterpart, Brandin Cooks.
Wheaton and Cooks have already combined for 94 receptions, which is 56% of Oregon State's total. Each posses great speed and reliable hands, and Cooks in particular has dangerous explosiveness.
ASU's cornerback tandem of Osahon Irabor and Deveron Carr have had their struggles as of late, and they'll be facing their toughest task of the season so far. They likely won't be able to stop Wheaton and Cooks, so it's simply a matter of keeping them in front, making tackles and eliminating big plays.
Get to Vaz
After a four-interception effort played a primary role in last week's loss, Sean Mannion lost his starting job to Cody Vaz. Vaz had impressed during his time replacing Mannion earlier in the year when the latter was injured, and should provide a stiff challenge to the Sun Devil defense with his accuracy and poise.
Given the talent of Vaz' weapons (see above) and a suspect secondary, ASU must mount a consistent and disruptive pass rush to rattle Vaz. Will Sutton will be back but won't be at 100%, but his presence alone should help to free things up a bit for Carl Bradford, Junior Onyeali and company. If they can get to Vaz early and often, the secondary will benefit tremendously.
Find a Way to Run...Just Enough
The Sun Devil rushing attack has had some struggles this year, and will be facing a mighty Beaver defense that held Montee Ball to just 61 yards and currently ranks fifth in the nation in stopping the run (83.4 yards-per-game). Factor in an ASU offensive line that will likely be without starting right guard Andrew Sampson, and it could be a tough night in Corvallis.
The center of the Beaver defense is massive, with defensive tackles Castro Masaniai (354 pounds) and Andrew Seumalo (295) clogging up the middle. ASU will likely attack the edges more with DJ Foster and Marion Grice, and it will be key that they find some success. Should the ground game disappear completely, turning the Sun Devils into a one-dimensional passing team, it will allow defensive end Scott Crichton (eight sacks) and company to tee off on Taylor Kelly.
Earn Another Shirt
ASU will be playing against the No. 13 team in the nation...on the road...against a unit that is among the best in turnover margin. Add those elements together, and you have a recipe for no margin of error.
The Sun Devils will need to be extra protective of the ball in Corvallis. They may be able to overcome a single turnover, but multiple instances of giving away opportunities will be too much to overcome.
Start Fast and Keep It Up
ASU may be 2-1 on the road this year, but each of those games has begun with a slow start by the Devils. While ASU can get away with such sluggish starts against the likes of Cal and Colorado, doing so against the nation's 13th ranked team is not advised.
The Sun Devils will need a fast start, one in which their execution is crisp and effective on each side of the ball, and most importantly, turnover-free.
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