ASU vs. Utah: The Sun Devil Keys to the Game

We've given you an in-depth breakdown of the ASU versus Utah match-up, talked to not one, but two Utah insiders, and provided you a glimpse into the future with our sneak peek at the game's box score.

Now, we boil it down to just the straightforward keys to victory.

1) Make Jon Hays Beat You

Utah is a run-first offense, and for good reason. They have one of the best running backs in the west in John White IV, who topped 1,500 yards and scored 15 touchdowns last season. He's a tough runner who has big game capability every time he steps onto the field. He wasn't on the field last week against BYU and the ground game fell apart, but he should be back this week.

The Utes, as they so often have been, are without starting quarterback Jordan Wynn due to a season-ending injury. In his place is a familiar face to ASU, Jon Hays. Last season, Hays made his first career start and threw three interceptions in the 35-14 Sun Devil win.

While Hays has improved greatly since then, the Ute offense is best when it comes on the ground. ASU's front seven needs to focus on taking away White and the other Utah runners and force Hays into making plays in the face of the relentless Sun Devils pass rush. If they can, ASU has to like their chances.

2) Make Sure the "Special" in "Special Teams" Isn't Meant Ironically

Sun Devil special teams crimes committed against Missouri: a lost fumble on a punt return, allowed a 44-yard punt return that set up a Tiger touchdown, bobbled a snap on a punt that forced a hurried kick that led to another touchdown and botched a critical fourth quarter extra point that denied them two chances at a short, game-tying field goal.

Not exactly the team's finest hour. Needless to say, special teams coach Joe Lorig has had a busy week.

In a game as evenly matched as this one figures to be, the deciding factor often comes down to special teams play. The pieces are all in place for a positive return to form, but a repeat of last week will see the Sun Devils back to .500.

3) Dim the Starlight

Arizona State is going to face many great defensive players this season, but perhaps none are as good as Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. The 6-foot-4, 325 pounder figures to be a top five selection in next April's NFL Draft, thanks to his incredible size and skill.

The All-Pac-12er has the ability to make disruptive plays even when double teamed, and the attention he demands from offenses helps to free up his teammates. He will be a very tough test for ASU's interior offensive line, but one that they must pass to some degree to help keep the Sun Devils in the game.

4) Find Someone...Anyone...at Wide Receiver to Step Up

It's beginning to feel like a broken record. "Someone step up at wide receiver" the fans demand and the media reports, only for the storyline to continue into the next week after another disappointing performance.

The tremendous talent of Jamal Miles, the strong springs of Rashad Ross and J.J. Holliday and the intriguing talent of Alonzo Agwuenu have yet to translate onto the field. Kevin Ozier has been the most consistent wide receiver, and he has just eight catches for 73 yards.

Last week, the group was plagued by drops, and their inability to make plays allowed Missouri to lock down on top target Chris Coyle and limit him from getting downfield. It's becoming imperative that someone from the group establishes themselves as a viable option.

5) Speak Victory for 60 Minutes, Not Just the 4th Quarter

For 45 minutes last week, the Sun Devils were their old, Ericksonian selves. They made mental mistakes, appeared overmatched on the road, committed penalties and turned the ball over.

Then, in the fourth quarter, they finally seemed to remember that Todd Graham was their head coach, and mounted an impressive rally that fell just short.

At home, against a division rival to start conference play in a bounce-back situation, this is close to a must win game for the Sun Devils. It's also a very winnable game. If they play the same "Speaking Victory" brand of ball that they did in the first two weeks from the kickoff to the final whistle, they will leave Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday with a big time win.

Follow me on Twitter @BDenny29 and like House of Sparky on Facebook

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