In the simplest terms, this offense is going to go as far as 6-foot-2, 211-pound senior quarterback Taylor Kelly takes it.
It’s no secret that he missed a chunk of the season with a foot injury, but he has done a relatively decent job since coming back.
Although Kelly’s completion percentage has taken a dip, he does what the ASU coaching staff needs him to do in terms of running the offense.
On the season, Kelly has 1,730 yards with 18 touchdowns to five interceptions. All five of those interceptions have come after he returned, but so have 12 of the touchdowns.
Kelly is always a threat to run, although he has not done it much in the past five games. His best game on the ground in that span was against Utah when he ran 14 times for 55 yards. In fact, he has not gone over 18 yards in the other four games since returning.
Kelly has numerous options in the backfield and it starts with 5-foot-11, 203-pound junior D.J. Foster.
Foster is just over the 1,000 yard mark for the season. He has only reached 100 yards in one Pac-12 game, but the talent is there and his yards per carry average remains relatively strong.
What makes Foster dangerous is his ability to catch out of the backfield or even line up out wide. He has 52 catches for 586 yards and three touchdowns and the Sun Devils like to create mismatches with him and an opposing linebacker.
Foster is not the only player that is going to get carries due in large part to 5-foot-10, 203-pound freshman Demario Richard.
Richard is a powerful runner who has 64 carries for 375 yards and two touchdowns. A lot of his success deals with momentum, as he tends to get more carries when he does well early in the game.
Deantre Lewis and Kallen Ballage could get a handful of carries as well, but they aren’t as big of a threat as the previous two backs mentioned.
Moving on to receivers, it is clear that 6-foot-3, 212-pound junior Jaelen Strong is among the best in the country.
Strong sat out with a concussion against Washington State, but there’s no chance he is sitting out in this one. His numbers have taken a hit since Kelly has returned, but the reality is that he is still plenty talented.
He has gone over 100 yards in four games this season and can hurt the opposition with the deep ball as well as in the possession game.
In addition to Strong, Kelly will look to 5-foot-11, 187-pound sophomore Cameron Smith. He has 541 yards and six touchdowns on the season with a good chunk of that coming in a 131-yard effort last week.
Smith is kind of boom or bust in his numbers. He has games where he will only have one or two catches and then others where he will have four or five and a decent amount of yards.
Arizona State’s offensive line has been strong for the most part, although it was terrible in the first half against Washington State. ASU has allowed 35 sacks on the season with five of them coming against the Cougars and 7 of them against the Washington Huskies.
Players to Watch
#21, WR Jaelen Strong: This goes without saying, but Arizona can’t let Strong go crazy. He has the potential to really hurt Arizona and if he is at his best, the Wildcats’ chances of winning decrease.
#83, TE Kody Kohl: He only has 13 catches this season, but three of them have come for touchdowns. With Arizona focusing on Strong and there likely being some holes in the middle of the field, it would not be a surprise to see Kohl make an impact.
#4, RB Demario Richard: Richard has an ability to break off long runs and our guess is that he is going to get his chance on Friday. Arizona obviously wants to control Foster, but Richard can often times be just as dangerous.
Keys to the Game:
Pressure Kelly: When ASU’s quarterback is under pressure, he’s not very good. Arizona needs to get to him and make him force some things, as he will be dangerous with a lot of time.
Contain the run: Arizona State’s offense is best when it is balanced, as is Arizona’s. The goal here is to make sure that ASU’s offense becomes more one-dimensional and the best way to do that is to take away the run.
Keep Strong in check: This offense has done a nice job with getting the big play and a major aspect of that is the success of Strong. He is going to get some catches, but as long as he has to earn them and none of them are deep, Arizona will be successful.