Five Keys to Victory: Arizona State

After cruising through two weeks of college football, No.20 Wisconsin finally gets a stern test, and it comes on the road against Arizona State. BadgerNation gives its five keys to victory for Wisconsin against the Sun Devils.

A quick review of the previous week's predictions:

1, The play of the front seven

The Badgers defense did indeed shut down the running game as second line tackling was very good. Safety Michael Caputo, linebacker Connor O'Neill and cornerback Darius Hillary all had their best games as Badgers. They recognized the plays quickly and were sure tacklers.

2,The wide receiver/QB combination

The two-minute drill showcased that the group is developing a good chemistry.

3, More tight end usage

Brian Wozniak caught his first career touchdown pass and Jacob Pedersen also was involved, but the Badgers will need more from a group full of experience.

Improvement of the special teams

Kickoff coverage was better, but the kicking game continues to flounder on the big stage.

5, The stout running game

Three tailbacks over 100 yards each. Enough said.

How do these keys carry over for the game against Arizona State?

1, Joel Stave

The Badgers do not need Stave to carry the team to victory against Arizona State, as the rushing game could provide enough points. Rather it is up to Stave to limit errors, manage the clock and keep the offense in a good rhythm. Arizona State's pass rush is well documented, but the run defense was not stellar in 2012. Quality opponents gained over 5 yards per carry in 2012. For example, a 7-5 Arizona squad gained 5.1 yards per carry to end the conference schedule against ASU. If the Sun Devils defense has not improved greatly in 2013, the UW game plan should be straight forward: rush the ball and use a quick-hitting passing game with tight ends to keep the ASU back seven honest. Stave needs to recognize this and control the game. Forcing passes could be spell disaster.

2,Keeping the game close early on

UW athletic director Barry Alvarez frequently points out the psychological disadvantage of playing road games at night. UW needs to keep the game close and settle in. This squad isn't the type to panic, especially on defense. Trying to come back from two scores down is a very difficult task in a road/night game environment. The keys will be: keep the ball in front as to limit big plays from ASU's passing game, be solid on kick coverage, realize that three-and-out is much better than a turnover and punt with authority. Those could be the five keys themselves.

3, The secondary's growth

QB Taylor Kelly had a fantastic year in 2012, completing 67 percent of his passes for 8.5 yards per attempt. His TD-to-INT ratio was 29-to-9 and he finished the season with a QB rating of 159.9. The leading ASU receiver Rashad Ross has moved on to the Tennessee Titans, but Kelly has returning tight end Chris Coyle. Coyle caught 57 passes in 2012. Will cornerbacks Darius Hillary, Sojourn Shelton and nickel back Peniel Jean show enough growth to limit ASU's passing game? So far in 2013 the UW pass rush has not shown the ability to get to the QB. UW will need solid coverage, as this is a huge test for a very young secondary. Solid tackling, keeping the receiver in front and backside help from the safeties, all to limit big gains, will be more important than jumping routes or knocking down passes.

4, Hitting a timely field goal

ASU pursuit will limit the 65-yard touchdown runs the Badgers have featured in the first two weeks. Kyle French will need to make field goals with the same proficiency he shows on kickoffs. There is no one better on the roster so it is time for French to show some consistency from inside the 30-yard line.

5, Converting 3rd down passes to the tight ends and tailbacks

Stave will need to convert on 3rd-and-long and his best bets will be James White, Jacob Pedersen and Brian Wozniak. Simple as that.

Prediction: UW's young secondary will not be completely up to the task and Stave will show difficulty being consistent on 3rd down. ASU wins 29-21.

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