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

Aug. 30, 2012; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona State running back DJ Foster (8) is tackled by a Northern Arizona defender in the first quarter at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand-US PRESSWIRE

The game is just a few hours away. We hope you've donned your favorite maroon shirt and are heading out to the stadium, or getting ready to catch the game on ESPN.

We've given you a detailed game preview with key match-ups, a look into the future with the box scores, and an in-depth Q&A with an Illini insider. Now we boil it down to the keys for a Sun Devil win.

Keep TK upright

The Illini defense can bring the heat. Just ask Brock Osweiler. Last year, Illinois beat him into submission and held ASU to a season low 14 points. This year, most pieces from the nation's seventh ranked defense return, and schematically, may be more potent.

The Sun Devils primary goal must be to keep the Illini pressure off of quarterback Taylor Kelly, who will be making just his second career start. While Kelly's debut last week was impressive, the difficulty this week ramps up dramatically.

Win the field position battle

This game figures to be high in physicality and short on yards. Both teams bring very talented and very aggressive defenses to face off against offenses with significant question marks.

With points in short supply, the war between the Sun Devils and Illini should break down into a series of field position battles. ASU may be shorthanded in this facet, with punter Josh Hubner battling a nagging injury throughout the week. Dillon Jackson will get the call if Hubner can't go.

Every yard will be contested, so the defenses will be counted upon to rack up three-and-outs and the special teams will need to be efficient. After being suspended for the team's opener, ASU's Jamal Miles could make serious amends with a game-changing return or two.

Run the ball, just enough

Against NAU, Arizona State ran for 305 yards. That's not happening against Illinois. The Illini front seven is just too good. Last week, Illinois took rushing yards back from Western Michigan, holding them to -6 yards on the ground.

ASU will have no shortage of talent in the backfield, but the question comes upfront with their offensive line. Only two starters return from last season and the unit was not tested against the Lumberjacks, and the illini defensive line features two standouts in tackle Akeem Spence and end Michael Buchanan.

The Sun Devils will need to find success on the ground in order to keep the Illini defense honest and to keep the pressure off of Kelly. This will be difficult, and the team can not abandon the run if success is not found initially. But with talent like Cameron Marshall, D.J. Foster and Marion Grice, success will be found at some point if they stick to the plan.

Put Scheelhaase in your pocket

Force the game on O'Toole and Osei

Yes, based on new reports, we had to strike our Nathan Scheelhaase point. Based on those reports, it seems that Illinois' best offensive talent and starting quarterback will not play.

That leaves the Illini in the hands of quarterbacks Reilly O'Toole and Miles Osei. O'Toole is a very unpolished pocket passer that is not a threat to run, while Osei is a runner in the style of Scheelhaase.

While both figure to play, ASU's defensive mission is the same: make them beat you. Neither player has proven to be an effective force at the FBS level, so the Sun Devils must work to take away the Illini run game and dare O'Toole and Osei beat them with their arms.

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