Stanford football got a huge win over UCLA in the home opener last week and play Arizona State on Saturday. The Daily’s Ariana Rollins, Jose Saldana and Sam Curry discuss whether KJ Costello should start over Keller Chryst, if the defense limit yardage by the Sun Devils and if Love will continue his large workload from last week.
On this week’s depth chart, Coach Shaw has Keller Chryst or KJ Costello as quarterback. Did Costello earn a chance to start after his performance against UCLA or should the more experienced Chryst be take back the reins if healthy?
Ariana Rollins (AR): It would be hard to be in attendance at the UCLA game and not think that Costello earned a chance to start, at the very least. More than anything stats-wise – though three touchdowns and a 68 percent completion rate certainly aren’t too shabby – Costello seemed to give the team the momentum it needed to wake up and score. Yes, Chryst has more experience, but Costello proved he had what it takes to sub in; let’s give him the chance to prove he can start.
Jose Saldana (JS): Costello certainly impressed against UCLA, and he did look solid in his short stint against Rice. His commanding presence at the line of scrimmage and his confidence with the offense were obvious as soon as he took over. Even saying all this, UCLA and Rice do not have good defenses. We don’t know how Chryst would have performed the rest of the game. He might have had a game like Costello, so I am not trying to rush in Costello. However, we’ve seen how Chryst has performed and Stanford can’t afford another loss or a lackluster victory. I know college coaches are stubborn, but I would trust coach Shaw to put the quarterback who would give the best chance for the team to win.
Sam Curry (SC): The consensus among players after the game seemed to be that Costello took impressive control of the huddle from the moment he came in, and more than anything, Stanford needs a leader at quarterback. Sure, Costello’s numbers weren’t eye-popping Saturday, but they are just what the Cardinal offense needs. The formula for winning Stanford teams in the past has been to overwhelm the opponent with a powerful running game, but also have a quarterback who is a strong leader and can keep a defense honest with his arm. Whatever Costello was doing last Saturday, the offense functioned like a well-oiled machine after he had a few drives as the signal-caller, and I think he definitely deserves another game to prove he deserves the spot. Costello’s debut has reminded me of Kevin Hogan’s when he first burst onto the scene, and although it’s early, I’m going to make the bold prediction that KJ won’t relinquish that starting spot for the rest of his time at Stanford.
The Stanford defense faces yet another prolific quarterback this Saturday in Arizona State’s Manny Wilkins, who ranks 11th nationally in passing yards. Josh Rosen torched the Cardinal for 480 yards last week and the Stanford defense is now ranked 112th in the nation in yards allowed per game. Is there any chance the Cardinal turn it around statistically this week?
AR: Saying Josh Rosen threw for 480 yards last week, while true, is also a bit misleading. Rosen ended with a completion rate of 66 percent (lower than Costello), completing 40 out of 60 throws. UCLA’s whole offense is Rosen, it’d be crazy if he didn’t put up high numbers. Let’s not forget that Stanford also got two interceptions and consistently pressured Rosen. That being said, we certainly can do better on keeping some of those big breakaways from happening. With our cornerbacks healthy and in the game, I’m hopeful for this week.
JS: Stanford has played two quarterbacks in Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold who just sling the football for tons of yards. The Sun Devils don’t have a great running attack (2.6 yards per carry), but quarterback Manny Wilkins has been very good. He has thrown for 9.08 yards per attempt and has eight touchdowns with no interceptions. Arizona State seems to be similar to UCLA except with a slightly weaker offense, and I expect Wilkins to throw for a huge amount of yards. The only way the Cardinal can stop Wilkins from messing up their defensive stats is to put a lot of pressure on Wilkins. He has been sacked 18 times in only four games and if the Stanford defensive front can consistently penetrate the offensive line, then Wilkins might not be able to have much time to throw. Even still, Stanford’s defensive stats show that the Sun Devils will record a lot of yards. Maybe the win over UCLA can galvanize the whole team and the defense can stuff Arizona State.
SC: While I agree with Ariana that Rosen’s 480 passing yards are a bit misleading due to the high volume of passes he was throwing, let’s keep in mind that that still amounts to eight yards per attempt. The Cardinal certainly did a better job pressuring Rosen than they did on opposing quarterbacks in previous weeks, but Rosen was still able to go through his progressions and find holes in the defense too many times. Although the Stanford defense could probably allow 38 points and nearly 500 passing yards this week and still come out with a win due to Arizona State’s subpar defense, they need to figure out something quick for, say, when Jake Browning and the Washington Huskies come to town.
Arizona State’s defense ranks 115th nationally, will Bryce Love see a similar workload this week as he did last week(30 carries) against a porous UCLA defense? Also, does playing these weak defenses help or hurt Love’s Heisman chances?
AR: Well, who is our quarterback? His workload definitely depends on that – I’m not sure Burns does much other than toss Love the ball at this point. Jokes (mostly) aside, Love is our main offensive weapon, and given how we treated our rush game the past two years, I wouldn’t be surprised if he sees a similar amount of touches. For the Heisman, while weak defenses are a factor to consider, Love is still leading the nation in rushing yards and that speaks for itself, defensive strength aside.
JS: It depends on how effective the Cardinal are at converting third down. Against USC and San Diego State, Bryce Love had a combined 30 carries. Stanford had to comeback against the Trojans and needed the passing game to make that happen, and the Aztecs completely dominated time of possession (41 minutes to 19). Love couldn’t be a workhorse in these situations. I don’t expect Love to get 30 carries, but if this game is similar to UCLA, then Love might get 22-25 carries.
I don’t think weak defenses is an argument against Love’s Heisman chances. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, who is one of the leading Heisman candidates, has faced a similar bevy of bad defenses. The issues with Love’s Heisman run is that Stanford already has two losses and he plays in the West Coast. The timezone differences definitely have an impact. Every game for Stanford has started out 8:30 p.m. or later in the East Coast. Not many people are praising Love’s season even though he is FBS’s leading rusher (787 rushing yards) on 10.8 yards per carry. Barkley has been great but Love has been great, too and it’s a shame more people aren’t talking about him.
SC: I think it’s becoming more and more clear that Love, although a smaller back, can take on a similar workload to his predecessor Christian McCaffrey. As Jose said, it does depend on the effectiveness of the passing game at times to keep drives alive and keep defenses from putting eight men in the box, but regardless, you have to give the man the ball at least 20 times a game in my opinion. He has demonstrated quite well that he isn’t just catching defenses off guard with these 50+ yard runs. Keep feeding him the ball, and he’s bound to break loose sooner or later. As far as Heisman talk, I don’t think weak defenses are the reason he is kept off of most watch lists for the award. I saw a list from ESPN the other day that had San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny at number three. Love was not on the list. While Rashaad Penny is without a doubt a phenomenal runner, he has fewer yards on the ground than Love, and what defenses has he faced? UC Davis? Arizona State? It’s just a matter of getting Love’s name more widespread, and, as Jose touched on, playing in games that Heisman voters see.
Contact Ariana Rollins at arianar ‘at’ stanford.edu , Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu and Sam Curry at currys ‘at’ stanford.edu.