We all know the history that this game brings. ASU does not play well in Berkeley, the last time the Sun Devils won a road game against Cal was during the Clinton Admisitration. Putting history aside, this team looks different. They play fundamentally sound and they do not shoot themselves in the foot.
ASU must continue to do this today against Cal and ASU cannot afford to get behind against a talented Golden Bears team. Here are the five keys to an ASU victory.
1. Get off to a good start: In Arizona State's only road game this season, they had a disastrous first half and were behind 24-7 in the fourth quarter. That cannot happen against Cal. ASU needs to at least play even with Cal in the first quarter as the Sun Devils cannot afford to dig themselves into a deep hole. Cal has talent on offense to distance themselves from Arizona State if they get the chance. Playing from behind on the road is tough enough, put into th equation the history of these two teams, and it is crucial that ASU gets out to a fast start.
2. Don't give up the big play: Cal has some dynamic weapons on offense. Among them is Brandon Bigelow, a sophomore running back that had 160 rushing yards two weeks ago against Ohio State. Bigelow had touchdown runs of 59 and 81 yards. That is how Cal stayed with Ohio State, they got yards in bunches and used the big play to score points. It is important that the ASU defense makes Cal go the length of the field on every scoring drive. That means no blown assignments and no mental mistakes on defense.
3. Contain Keenan Allen: The stud receiver from California has 309 yards on the season and just one touchdown. Lets keep it that way. Allen has yet to record a 100-yard receiving game this season, and the junior has been contained by all the defenses he has played. The ASU secondary has not faced an athlete like Allen how is dynamic in the open field and goes up to get the ball in the air. Look for ASU to keep a safety over the top and give its cornerbacks some help when covering Allen.
4. Get the running game going: ASU needs to be a balanced offense today against Cal. Last week against Utah, ASU focused more on the passing game, using the arm of Taylor Kelly to throttle the Utes. In a tough environment on the road, ASU needs to run the football. Whether it is Cameron Marshall, Marion Grice or D.J. Foster, the ASU running game needs to be in top gear today.
5. Pressure the quarterback: The ASU defensive line has played great all season. Will Sutton has been a dependable pass rusher all year and that needs to continue against Cal. it is important that ASU makes Cal quarterback Zach Maynard uncomfortable in the pocket. They need to force Maynard to make a mistake and set up the ASU offense with short fields.