By James Romo for DieHardDevil.com
The Sun Devils will open up Pac-12 Conference play today against a very physical Utah team coming off of an emotional win against their in-state rival last week. The Utes will either show up brimming with confidence and resolute on carrying that same intensity into Sun Devil Stadium…Or like many teams after a big program win, they will show up emotionally hung over and have a big let down with their focus. Either way, the keys for an ASU victory will remain the same if they want to take early control of the Pac-12 South division.
- Rediscover the Power Run Game – To this point, Cameron Marshall has been noticeably absent this season in both the number of carries he’s received, and in his total production (25 carries for 81 yards). Much like Missouri, the Utah defensive front is extremely bullish against the run. However, whether it’s Marshall, Grice, or Morrison, ASU cannot abandon running between the tackles. This will keep linebackers honest at the line of scrimmage, and open up what has been the strength of the ASU offense – the short to intermediate passing game.
- Going Deep – ASU will fare much better if they can stretch the field vertically today. Finding a true deep threat receiver will not only go a long way in making big plays, but this too will create passing lanes underneath. The Sun Devils have done a great job of spreading the field out wide, but will have to have an above average Utah defense covering the entire field today.
- Contain John White – Coming back from an ankle injury, Utah will attempt to ride their running game to the finish line and come out of Tempe with a win. The ASU defense has got to keep White bottled up and forced inside. If they can suffocate the Utah running game, the Sun Devil front 7 will be able to pin their ears and get after Jon Hays against an inconsistent pass protect Utah Offensive line.
- Better Tackling – The ASU defense was very inconsistent tackling agains Mizzou, ultimately giving up several yards after first contact. There were several opportunities to make a stop for loss of yardage, but ASU defenders failed to break down and make sure tackles.
- Just Get Back to Basics – In the kicking game, just hike the ball, catch the ball, and kick the ball. Punter Josh Hubner should be a huge weapon in the battle for field position every week. The ASU kick and punt coverage teams need to maintain lane integrity and not be fooled this week by trick plays in the Utah return game. Utah has dynamic kick returners and converted a fake punt last week.
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