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ASU vs New Mexico: 5 Keys to the Game

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What do the Sun Devils need to do to earn win No. 2 on Friday?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Sun Devils have made it clear throughout the week that their focus is set on preparing to face New Mexico. With the game on Friday, a shortened week will not only enable ASU to carry over any momentum drawn from its previous win, but just as quickly jump start what has been a relatively slow start to the young season.

Here are five keys to this week's contest:

1. Winning possession and utilizing it:

The Sun Devils conceded 32:22 of clock to Cal Poly last weekend while only controlling the ball for 27:38. Like the Mustangs, New Mexico will also feature a triple option offense. Limiting the Lobos' time of possession will be key to ASU coming out with a comfortable win.

During the Sun Devils' matchup with New Mexico in 2014, ASU loss the possession battle by over nine minutes, however won the game 58-23. Should the Sun Devils manage their possessions well, the disparity shouldn't be an issue once again.

2. Defend the perimeter:

Although New Mexico's offense features a triple-option look, it differs in variation from Cal Poly's.

"This is a different triple option team, they are not under-center, it's not a Navy flex-bone deal," Graham said. "This is a shotgun, triple option attack. Their quarterback and running backs are faster."

- Todd Graham

"It's a different scheme this week," defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. "New Mexico's spacing is different because they are out of the (shot) gun. They can't have those wide splits because it's not as quick-hitting as the true veer teams."

- Keith Patterson

With that said, expect to see less of a running game focused on pounding the Sun Devils' defense in its interior in deference to a more perimeter-based attack.

To this point in the season, ASU's defense has given up 11 plays of 15 yards or more and five plays of 20 yards or more, with two of those being offensive scores.

ASU will have to be disciplined on the edges and contain New Mexico's horizontal ground attack.

3. Winning the turnover margin:

Since Todd Graham's arrival, the Sun Devils have been very good at not only creating turnovers, but protecting the ball, as well.

Through two games this season, ASU has turned the ball over four times, and notably fumbled the ball five times against Texas A&M (lost only two). It leaves them currently sitting with a -1 turnover margin.

If the Sun Devils turn it over against the Lobos, and enable them to dominate possession in the process, ASU could spell its own recipe for disaster on Friday.

4. Converting in the red zone:

One of the reason the Sun Devils found such a difficult time pulling away from the Mustangs last weekend was because they weren't as effective in the red-zone as they would have liked.

The Sun Devils enter the week currently 7-for-9 when converting within 20 yards (six touchdowns, one field goal). Their two miscues came against Cal Poly, when Mike Bercovici tossed an interception and Zane Gonzalez missed a field goal attempt.

Arizona State will have to be clinical near the goal line this week in order to secure itself a win.

5. The stars need to shine:

Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans completed 16-of-30 passes for 321 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions last weekend against New Mexico. Meanwhile, Tulsa running backs Zack Langer and D'Angelo Brewer combined for 272 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in the Golden Hurricane's 40-21 win.

So far, we've yet to really see Arizona State's offensive stars (Bercovici, D.J. Foster, Demario Richard) have as dominant a performance as many expected to have this year, aside from Richard's performance last week.

In their search for an offensive identity, ASU will need these three to absolutely steal the show and lead the Sun Devils to their second win.