The Arizona St. Sun Devils play a big non-conference game this weekend as the Illinois Fighting Illini come to town. The Illini beat Western Michigan 24-7 in their season opener and new coach Tim Beckman's debut, but they will face a tougher opponent this week in Tempe.
Plenty has been said about the matchup, and now it's time to check out what the Sun Devils must do in order to win. Our very ownASU blog, House of Sparky, talks about what has to happen for the home team to come out victorious:
3) Protect ASU Quarterback Taylor Kelly
Illinois front four is beastly, lead by disruptive senior defensive end Michael Buchanan. Buchanan's 7.5 sacks are the most of any returning player, providing excellent veteran leadership.
Quarterbacks often make poor choices when going against the Illini defense. Taylor Kelly rarely turns the ball over, but when there are multiple 300-pound behemoths in his face, the outcome cannot be predicted.
The Illinois secondary is average, but the men in front disguise that weakness.
So here is my point. If Kelly is provided time to throw, like most quarterbacks, he will be successful. The Devils offensive line looked sharp in their debut, only allowing one sack in the contest. The effort was nice, but NAU is essentially Triple-A while the Illini are legitimate major leaguers.
House of Sparky also believes that containing Nathan Scheelhaase in the pocket and getting out to an early lead are musts for ASU. Given the large crowd that is expected, both of these seem like keys to the game.
For more on the Devils, be sure to check out House of Sparky.