The success of the defense starts with the defensive line, specifically defensive tackle Will Sutton and end Davon Coleman. Both are able to get to the quarterback on a relatively consistent basis and senior tackle Gannon Conway can also fill lanes and penetrate gaps. The trio has combined for 14 sacks and 30 tackles for loss this season.
The linebacking unit is nearly as, if not more, talented than the front three. Carl Bradford is the most well-known member of the unit, and with good reason. Physically imposing with effective closing speed, Bradford will play at the next level. He has 6.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss on the season.
Lining up next to Bradford is Salamo Fiso. One of the few underclassman contributors on the Sun Devil defense, Fiso has some serious potential, but has also been engulfed at times. He is third on the team with 50 tackles and has added three sacks as well.
At the Spur position is Chris Young, who is one of the most talented defenders on the Sun Devil roster. At 244 pounds, he is the team's leading tackler and a relentless pursuer of the ball carrier. We would expect him to put up big numbers on Saturday.
Due to injury, Anthony Jones has been thrust into a starter's role and while he is undersized at 215 pounds, he brings a solid understanding of the defense.
ASU has one of the better cornerback tandems in the country. Former elite recruit Osahon Irabor has had an uneven career, but he has put together a strong senior season, and has been a consistent participant in the run game.
Opposite Irabor is Robert Nelson. To put it mildly, Nelson shows a nose for the ball. His six interceptions combined with 10 pass deflections figures to serve him well in his pursuit of all-conference honors.
Upperclassman Alden Darby and Damarious Randall man both safety spots. Darby, in particular, has put together a stellar season. Among the team leaders in tackles, Darby has made been everywhere in the passing game, hauling in 3 interceptions with 19 combined pass deflections and breakups.
Players to Watch:
#90, DL Will Sutton: Although Sutton hasn't posted the gaudy numbers he did last season, the amount of attention he receives has delivered single coverage for other defenders.
#52, LB Carl Bradford: Fast and quick with a knack for getting after the quarterback, Bradford is an imperative component of the Devil defense. Similar to Sutton, Bradford is a game changer who must be accounted for on each play.
#9, CB Robert Nelson: Partially due to the Sun Devil pass rush, Nelson has posted eye-popping numbers in the secondary. Most times it's a good idea to stay away from him and it will be interesting to see how much Arizona challenges him.
Keys to the Game:
Get rid of the ball: ASU figures to be in Denker's face all game and it will be imperative that when he does throw, he doesn't hold on to the ball too long.
Beat single coverage: With a bevy of talented corners, the Sun Devils are unlikely to be intimidated by any of the Cats' receivers. Look for the Devils to focus on pressuring Denker while relying on their secondary to shut down Arizona's inconsistent passing game.
Run the ball: It's important for Arizona to keep the ASU offense off the field, and the best way to do that is through Carey. There is no question that ASU has a very talented defense, but, as other talented Arizona opponents have discovered, it is nearly impossible to shut down number 25.