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ASU Football: 5 keys to victory vs. Utah

Five keys to the Sun Devils staying alive in the College Football Playoff race.

Stephen Brashear

It's trap game time! I know what you're thinking. This can't be a trap game, right? Utah is ranked. They play in the Pac-12 South. They're consistently one of the best-coached teams in America.

You'd be correct if you had all of those thoughts and questions. But this is, indeed, a trap game. Notre Dame is a week away. Notre Dame has just one loss, and it was in a thriller against undefeated Florida State. Notre Dame is ranked, and much higher than Utah. And yes, Notre Dame beat the Sun Devils last season.

With all of that being said, it's probably pretty easy to guess what our top key to the Utah game is. Here our the keys to a win against the Utes:

1. Be focused: At this point, it's fair to say that Todd Graham and his Sun Devils have earned the benefit of the doubt. They walloped Stanford. They went to Washington and beat a very good team. They persevered against USC and they were competitive, at least for a half, with UCLA, despite everything they were up against. Still, with the Irish in town next week in what could be basically a playoff elimination game, the Sun Devils have to be focused for this one. Utah makes a living beating teams that look ahead too far. Don't make that mistake.

2. Get D.J. Foster the rock: Foster hasn't even flirted with 100 yards since the Colorado game, and that needs to change at some point, or the Sun Devils will have to consider making Demario Richard the primary back and moving Foster back into the slot. I still believe Foster's biggest issue came with Taylor Kelly out. Teams honed in on the talented back and forced Mike Bercovici to win games (spoiler alert: he did). Last week was a return to the traditional read-option offense that Foster thrived in, but it came against the Pac-12's most talented defense. This needs to be the game where Foster gets back on track.

3. Force Travis Wilson to make mistakes: One of the reasons Utah has been able to win games without scoring a lot of points is the play of quarterback Travis Wilson. The junior has yet to throw an interception on the season, despite being terribly inaccurate (56.6% accuracy). The Sun Devils have only picked off four passes so far. But one interception, one extra possession for the Sun Devils offense, could be the difference in what is expected to be another low scoring affair.

4. Contain Devontae Booker: Booker has quietly been one of the best running backs in the conference this season. Averaging 120.6 yards per game and 5.8 per carry, not only does Booker do a good job of getting up field, but he rarely goes backwards, too. Booker has lost just 25 yards this season. He's a one-cut runner who knows how to get his pads low and find the extra yards that matter when you play defensive minded games like the Utes do.

5. Protect the rock: The Sun Devils, like Utah, have protected the ball well all season. Arizona State has just six turnovers, and Taylor Kelly has only thrown one interception. The Sun Devils record is remarkably better when Kelly doesn't throw an interception, and Utah surely knows that. The Utes have intercepted eight passes this season, and with Kelly leaning on Jaelen Strong so much, Utah has to be thinking about trying to jump some of his routes. Kelly needs to be ready for that and keep from making a potentially fatal mistake in this one.