1) The Defensive Line Must Step Up
The Wisconsin offensive line averages 6-foot-6 and 321 pounds. Conversely, the ASU defensive line averages 6-foot and 300 pounds. The height differential by the Badger offensive linemen is not, by itself, necessarily an advantage. But tall guys usually have long arms, and that is a big advantage. Long arms are a great tool to control the man in front of you.
Wisconsin is a true power running team. They often line up with two tight ends and sometimes a third tight end with a fullback. They grind out 300 yards a game. Obviously, the defensive line for ASU must stand their ground. Specifically, Sutton, Hood and Conway (and possibly Hardison/Latu/Coleman) must “eat” double teams by the offense without giving up ground. This is critical. Most zone running schemes require a “combo block,” which is a double team on a defensive lineman. When the DL is under control, one of the OLs will slide off onto a linebacker. It’s a great scheme if that initial double team block on the DL is successful. However, if Will Sutton and Company can require the double team to stay on them, it essentially creates a situation where Wisconsin is using six guys to block three ASU guys. This will allow the Sun Devil linebackers to read easily, move freely and get downhill on the running backs. It’s an ugly task for any defensive lineman; they have to take a beating without many recorded tackles or sacks. It is the very definition of unselfish play and critical for success.
2) The Cornerbacks Must Lock it Down
The Wisconsin sophomore QB is unproven as a legitimate passer. Most of his completions are short routes. He tends to stare where he’s going to throw. Plus, the Wisconsin wide receivers are average. If the ASU cornerbacks can handle them without help, defensive coordinator Paul Randolph can bring one or even both of his safeties down into “the box” to help stop the run. This “8-man front” would be a huge help in stopping the vicious running attack of the Badgers.
3) Stay Creative on Offense
The Wisconsin defense is stout, but not as athletic and fast as the Arizona State offense. Sun Devil offensive coordinator Mike Norvell should continue to use lots of formations (especially trips), motions and shifts to keep the defense spread out and trying to figure out who they are covering. And ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly needs to try to spread the ball around to different receivers, keeping the defense honest and making them defend everyone.
4) Solid Kicking Game
Close games usually come down to the kicking game. Wisconsin has issues at kicker this season. Their punter hasn’t seen much action. ASU is not much better, so far. Field position created by the punt/punt return teams and the success or failure of the field goal unit could very well determine the game. It would also help if Alex Garroutte continues getting touchbacks on kickoffs. What a weapon!
5) Exploit the Variables
The variables of this game favor the Sun Devils. Each variable by itself is not really a big deal, but when you add them all up, it can change a game. The variables include:
a) Heat. Whatever the game time temperature is, it will be hotter than Wisconsin is used to.
b) Time change. For the Badgers’ biological clocks, it’s a 9:30 pm kickoff. That’s a late night for them.
c) Crowd noise. This goes for any visiting team. It may be especially true if Sun Devil Stadium is a sellout with a raucous crowd. A good crowd gives the home team confidence and puts doubt into the mind of the visiting team.
d) New coach. The first season for a new coach is always a challenge. New system..new personalities. The Badgers are still learning, which isn’t optimal when trying to beat a good team.
Can the Sun Devils pull off the victory? You can see for yourself by checking out NCAA college football tickets here, including tickets to see this week’s matchup against the Badgers.