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ASU Vs. Oregon State: 4th And Goal - The Keys To A Sun Devil Victory

Following in the footsteps of the ancient Greeks, the Arizona State Sun Devils have brought down the Trojan Empire. After suffering 11 straight defeats to the USC Trojans, ASU took a major step towards the Pac-12 South division title with a historic 43-22 win on Saturday.

Sandwiched between this emotional high and a huge game next week against Utah is a visit from the Oregon State Beavers.

OSU has been awful so far this season, coming into the game at 0-3 and generally playing like the Beavers from the 1970s, 80s and 90s.  However, the Beavers have historically turned a switch come October of every year, and this is a conference game, so ASU must be ready for a fight.

Here now are the keys to victory.

1st  - Don't Get Cocky

As they are fleeing the Death Star in the Millennium Falcon, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo manned the gun turrets against a squadron of TIE fighters. After Luke shoots one down, his jubilation is tempered by Han's quick reply of "Don't get cocky".

Arizona State must maintain the same attitude.

Yes, they managed their biggest win in several years against a longtime nemesis, but continuing the Star Wars theme, they've just shot down a TIE fighter, not blown up the Death Star.

Oregon State is a team that is 0-3 on the season and has had 17 players make their first career start, factors leading to ASU entering the game as an 18-point favorite.  Nevertheless, as Dan Hawkins told us, this is Division 1 football and a conference rival who has a three-game winning streak over ASU.  The Sun Devils can ill afford another letdown after a big win like what happened earlier this season in Champaign.

If they can play with the same intensity as last week, this should be a rout.

2nd - Continue to Run

One of the most disappointing aspects of the Sun Devils so far this season had been the performance of the running game.

Against their two FBS opponents, ASU had only run for 210 yards on 65 carries, a pitiful 3.2 yards-per-carry average.  The offensive line was unable to generate any push off the line and consequently there were no running lanes for ASU's talented playmakers.

That changed against USC.

On his first carry of the game-and while playing with still injured ankles-Cameron Marshall took the ball 70-yards for a touchdown. It was merely a sign of things to come.

For the day, he finished with 141 yards on a career-high 25 carries and three touchdowns.

Oregon State suffered huge losses in their defense over the off-season, with only four starters returning. They are vulnerable up front, and the Sun Devils must exploit this match-up.  Marshall and company should have no problem replicating last week's success against the Beavers.

3rd - Contain A Rodgers Brother

Last season, Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers shredded the Sun Devil defense for 145 yards rushing and two touchdown, including a 74-yard score that marked his career long.  In 2009, Jacquizz scored two touchdowns and his brother, wide receiver James, caught 10 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.

Jacquizz has since moved on to the NFL but James remains.

He had missed the first two games before returning last week, catching five passes for 76 yards against UCLA.Now with a game under his belt, the fifth-year player must be contained as he represents the biggest threat to the Sun Devil defense, especially since running back Malcolm Agnew will miss the game.

4th - Start Fast

Oregon State is one of the worst first half teams in the nation. So far this season, they've been outscored 56-13 in the first two quarters.

Upset bids always follow the same script-the heavy underdogs somehow manage to keep it close long enough to finally topple the favorite at the end. Given OSU's penchant for October success, ASU can not allow that to happen.

Much as they did against UC Davis, the Sun Devils must storm out against a markedly inferior opponent and deliver touchdowns early. 

Oregon State has the 119th ranked pass efficiency defense and have yet to intercept a pass this season.  That should have Brock Osweiler licking his chops. Look for a first half heavy with throws to Aaron Pflugrad, Gerrell Robinson and Mike Willie to exploit this.

Goal - Keep On Keeping On

The Sun Devils played their finest game in years last week. 

The offense was powerful and efficient, the defense created several big plays and the bad habits that ASU has shown thus far-penalties, poor pass blocking and special teams blunders-were for the most part not at all a factor.

There is not an aspect of this game in which the Sun Devils do not hold the advantage. The only thing that can make this a competitive game are those aforementioned mistakes. Penalties and turnovers are football's great equalizer.

Should ASU play with the same level of intensity and focus as last week, we should hopefully see the backups playing significant time in the second half of a comfortable ASU win.

Prediction: ASU 38-13


For more in-depth analysis, listen to Speak of the Devils, the premier ASU podcast, now on iTunes. Part I of this week's episode is an in-depth interview with Tim Healey, the Voice of the Sun Devils, and Part II features a complete breakdown of the USC win and a look at the Oregon State game.