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ASU Football: Three Keys to Beating UCLA

Arizona State needs to do these three simple things to beat the Bruins on Saturday night.

The time for talk is nearly over. 

Only hours remain until the Arizona State Sun Devils play their biggest game of the season thus far, a road trip to the Rose Bowl to take on the UCLA Bruins. 

With both teams currently sitting at 3-1, the winner of Saturday night's game would move to 4-1 on the year and effectively put themselves in full control of their destiny in the Pac-12 South. Arizona State and UCLA were both favorites to potentially have a seat in the conference championship game later this year, and the first week of October looks to play a large role in deciding who represents the South division. 

The Sun Devils stroll into Pasadena as three-point underdogs, the first time they haven't been favored all season. 

So, what does Arizona State need to do to improve to remain undefeated in Pac-12 play? 

Three Keys to Beating UCLA

Keep Dorian Thompson-Robinson inside the pocket: The one Achilles heel for the Sun Devils defense has been mobile quarterbacks and their ability to either move defenders or buy extra time with their feet or gash defenses on the ground running the football. 

Thompson-Robinson is known for doing that, and with both defenses touting strong defenses, the pressure will be on each respective quarterback to make plays when needed. 

How can the Sun Devils prevent DTR from making those plays? With a consistent pass-rush that keeps him in the pocket, immobilizing him while cutting rushing lanes and hopefully sacking him a few times as well.

Winning situational football: The return of running back Chip Trayanum should pay dividends for Arizona State, which has missed his physical running style and capability. ASU faces a tough Bruins run defense, who allow a mere 64 yards per game (best in the Pac-12). 

The Sun Devils will need Trayanum to pick up crucial yards and in situations such as third-and-short, something ASU has struggled with in recent games. Arizona State's ability to convert on third down and keep the ball out of UCLA's hands will be crucial in their hopes for victory. 

Settle the nerves early: Head coach Herm Edwards spoke about a good portion of his players being from California earlier this week, and what it would mean for them to play in front of their families back home:

"It is a game where a lot of guys from Los Angeles are going home, guys want to play well when they go home, not saying they don’t want to play well all the time but there is family, friends, there are all these distractions when you go home and we have to be careful with that," said Edwards. 

"It’s important that we don't commit a lot of fouls, those fouls get you in trouble, they give opportunities to the opponent when you get in a game where there are a lot of fouls.”

With the game's magnitude beginning to peak, the Sun Devils will look to avoid their last road appearance that ended with 19 flags thrown on Arizona State and four turnovers committed. 

Undoubtedly, those players will need a play or two to settle in at the beginning of the game. It's expected out of young men where many will be experiencing that atmosphere for the first time. 

However, Arizona State will need to place a heavy emphasis on not penalizing themselves and eliminating as many preventable mistakes as possible. 

For more news, analysis, insight and more on the Arizona State Sun Devils, follow AllSunDevils on Twitter @AllSunDevils and Donnie Druin on Twitter @DonnieDruin.