The Arizona State Sun Devils are No. 7 nationally in turnover margin, and a key reason why is ASU's gambling, pressure defense.
There are many scary stats for offenses confronting the Sun Devil D. Hence, Arizona State is No. 12 nationally in tackles for loss with 94, No. 3 in interceptions with 21, and No. 1 in sacks with 40. Obviously, the heavy pressure ASU applies to opposing passers leads to errant throws and numerous picks.
But Arizona State's aggressive approach has its drawbacks. Given the gaudy stats noted above, one might expect the Sun Devil defense to be extremely difficult to score upon, but that supposition would be erroneous, for in fact, ASU is only No. 57 in scoring defense, surrendering 26 points per contest.
And there are several statistics that explain why the Sun Devil defense is only average in preventing scores. First, ASU is a decent but not outstanding No. 44 in yards per carry allowed, giving up 3.99 yards per carry. This means that opponents sometimes manage to sustain drives.
Second, the Sun Devils are only No. 47 in pass defense, allowing 222 passing yards per contest, and the reason for this modest statistic is the fact that ASU is a poor No. 95 nationally in allowing pass plays of 20 yards or more.
The third and most critical key, however, is opponents' touchdown percentage in the red zone. In this rubric, ASU is No. 84, allowing offenses to convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns 64 percent of the time.
All of this should be very much a mixed bag for Texas Tech's offense.
Thus, while it appears that ASU is a bit vulnerable to the run, Tech is only No. 116 nationally in rushing attempts. This is particularly true of the first quarter when it seems the Red Raiders rarely even test the rushing waters.
Likewise, whereas Arizona State cannot prevent opponents from scoring TDs in the red zone, Tech is ill equipped to take advantage, scoring red zone touchdowns only 56 percent of the time, which is No. 92 nationally.
Then we come to the real red flags for the Red Raiders.
First is interception totals. Arizona State's defense is proficient in this area, while the Tech offense is munificent, tossing 18 picks on the year, good for No. 116 in the country.
Second, Tech's offense, which is No. 106 nationally in sacks allowed per game, will be facing the nation's most ferocious pass rush. ‘Nuff said.
The first key for Tech's offense to succeed will be establishing a ground game to hamstring the ASU pass rush. Unfortunately, Kliff Kingsbury's track record this season suggests it is unlikely he will make the attempt.
Second, the Red Raiders will have to attack the Sun Devils deep downfield. Arizona State is vulnerable in this area, while Tech is No. 13 nationally in pass plays of 20 yards or more. The obvious problem here is that deep passing plays usually develop slowly, and that is a grave concern when facing a strong pass rush.
Key Matchup: Carl Bradford versus Tech Offensive Line
Junior defensive end Carl Bradford, an NFL prospect, leads ASU in sacks with 8.5. At 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds he is quick enough to play on the edge, but stout enough to swing inside and handle the rough stuff. Containing Bradford will be mission critical for the Red Raider offensive line.
Unfortunately, that offensive line has shown cracks. As noted above, Tech is statistically poor in preventing sacks, and saved its worst outing for last, giving up nine sacks to the Texas Longhorn defense in Tech's last game. The line has shown weakness in straight, man-on-man blocking, and sometimes looks confused and ill-coordinated when confronted with stunts, twists and stems.
The Matchup: Tech Offense vs. ASU Defense
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