Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE
The Arizona State Sun Devils are ready to battle with the Utah Utes in the Pac-12 South.
UTE CENTRAL: Why hasn't ASU been great against the run, but very strong against the pass so far. Who are the standouts on defense in both of those areas?
JUSTIN KARP of BoldSaguaros.com: It comes down to two main points - Arizona State has had significant problems tackling at the first point of contact on the run and they've gone up against backup quarterbacks in each of their first three games. The Sun Devils, just as they were last year, have become susceptible to yards after first contact against elusive backs. Utah has one in John White, and the Devils will have to make sure to put him down when they get the first chance. Anything other than that will be unacceptable. Meanwhile, despite this week being the 4th straight game in which ASU won't go up against a first-string quarterback, Jon Hays probably presents the biggest challenge so far based on his athleticism and the targets he has. The guy to watch for Arizona State tonight is Will Sutton. Sutton, a redshirt junior defensive tackle, has really come into his own as the anchor of a stout defensive line, and any success in shutting down the Utes potent running game starts and ends with him. Obviously, the man to watch in the defensive passing game is Brandon Magee, who has emerged as one of the better ball-hawking back seven players in the Pac-12.
UTE CENTRAL: What will ASU key on when trying to stop the Utes on offense? What is their number one priority on defense against Utah?
Karp: Clearly, ASU has to focus on John White and his ability to bust off 4-5 yards per carry like it isn't any trouble. The Sun Devils greatly struggled against Illinois to maintain a semblance of run defense, and that was in a 45-10 victory. This defense cannot and should not let White start to feel it, because if he does, he could go off. Meanwhile, they have to keep their eyes on the edges and on Utah's nimble wideouts.
UTE CENTRAL: What has Todd Graham brought to ASU that was lacking with Erickson when it came to culture of the team and play on the field?
JUSTIN KARP of BoldSaguaros.com: Discipline and a renewed buy-in for all players involved. Even though it didn't show early on against Missouri, the Sun Devils play much more within themselves and as a unit. On too many occasions under Dennis Erickson, it felt like there were 11 individuals freelancing. Now, you can see how well this team meshes together after just three games. There's a fresh optimism around Tempe; Graham certainly has the campus community and the fan base on his side, and if he can show progress in year one - the expectations aren't too high, anyway - there will be even more optimism about the future of his tenure in Tempe.
UTE CENTRAL: What or who is ASU's biggest offensive weapon?
JUSTIN KARP of BoldSaguaros.com: Before this season started, I would have pointed to Cameron Marshall, hands down. After three games, though, it seems clear that true freshman D.J. Foster may be the guy that Utah has to watch out for the most. The freshman running back is nimble, he cuts quickly and goes form 0-to-60 in the blink of an eye. He'll be all over the place. Jamal Miles is always someone to keep an eye on, though, especially on special teams. He'll line up at wide receiver and is Arizona State's only real threat to stretch the field through the air, but if he finds open space on kick and punt returns, Utes defenders will see a giant cloud of dust rather than #32.
UTE CENTRAL: Star Lotulelei has literally been unblockable so far in 3 games, what do you expect ASU to do to either neutralize him or minimize his affect?
JUSTIN KARP of BoldSaguaros.com: Either A) Pray, B) Tie him up and leave him in an undisclosed location deep in the Sonoran Desert or C) make sure that the Sun Devils' offensive line never takes their collective eyes off of him for 60 minutes. He's a hulk and the Sun Devils certainly have no one in the backfield to physically pick him up if he bursts through. The problem for ASU is that they don't have the luxury of keying or double-teaming a guy like Lotulelei, since there's so much talent outside of him on that defensive line.
UTE CENTRAL: ASU will win if?
JUSTIN KARP of BoldSaguaros.com: Foster, Taylor Kelly and Marion Grice find ways to work into the Utah secondary on a regular basis and the defense is able to neutralize Utah's hulking defensive line.
UTE CENTRAL: Utah will win if?
JUSTIN KARP of BoldSaguaros.com: The Utes' offensive line is able to spring John White for big gains all night and Lotulelei and the Utah D-line wreak havoc on the Sun Devils backfield.