Coming off of a 58-34 victory against UCLA last Saturday, the Stanford Cardinal (2-2, 1-1 Pac-12) will look to capture another win against the Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday (2-2, 1-0 Pac-12) at Stanford Stadium.
The Cardinal will be looking to prove themselves in a few ways.
The first is that this team is capable of consistently winning games, and that last week wasn’t a fluke. Before UCLA, Stanford had lost 42-24 to USC, and followed that with a demoralizing 20-17 loss to San Diego State. Many were cautiously hopeful about the UCLA game, given the poorly ranked Bruin defense and the fact that it was Stanford’s first home game; the Cardinal then proved people had a right to be optimistic.
This week’s matchup against ASU plays on similar themes. Their defense is ranked 118th in yards allowed per-play, and they rely strongly on their passing game, with three times as many yards coming from passing than rushing.
It’s also another home game for the Cardinal, and the fans should be hyped up after last week’s performance. Stanford will likely feed off of that excitement.
That being said, this won’t necessarily be an easy win for the Cardinal. The Stanford secondary has struggled this season, and the defense is allowing 453 yards per game on average. Given the usual Stanford team format of strong rushing with an equally strong defense, the Cardinal either need to step it up on defense or get used to some very high-scoring games in order to have a successful season.
Furthermore, while ASU’s defense is far from top-tier, the Sun Devils quarterback, senior Manny Wilkins, threw for 347 yards in their 37-35 win against Oregon last week. Given Stanford’s struggles against high-powered passing offenses, watch for players like Justin Reid and Alijah Holder to make or break the defense.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Stanford’s quarterback situation became clearer on Friday afternoon when Stanford football announced on social media that sophomore K.J. Costello would make his first collegiate start and senior Keller Chryst would not dress.
Chryst started last week, but after an undisclosed injury, the position fell mostly to sophomore Costello (after a few plays by fifth-year Ryan Burns). Costello threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, completing 13-of-19 passes for 123 yards.
It wasn’t his play that really changed things however, but rather the energy he brought onto the field. Star running back Bryce Love described it, saying, “His confidence really exuded through the huddle. He was making all the right reads, making plays. We fed off that.”
Though Stanford head coach David Shaw said that Costello “gave guys chances to make plays with the ball, kept drives alive, scored with his legs,” he had remained mute on the topic of who will start as quarterback.
The quarterback situation has brought intrigue to the Cardinal’s season but the real story of last week’s game (and the season, really) was the play of junior running back Bryce Love.
Love ran for a career-high 263 yards last game, and averages 10.78 yards per carry, leading the nation in rushing. It wouldn’t be surprising if he saw upwards of 20 touches this week, especially given Arizona State’s weak rush defense.
With any luck, the more balanced Cardinal offense, which has run on 54% of plays this season as opposed to 63.1% last season, will make it harder for ASU to stack the box and focus on stopping the run.
Of course, even Arizona State coach Todd Graham said, “He’s as good a back as you’re going to play against,” so expect them to at least try to contain Love. Even so, as explosive as Love is, if the Sun Devils give him an inch he’ll likely take it to the house.
Arizona State has not won a conference game on the road in two years, and Stanford will undoubtedly be eager to extend that streak much like they extended their 10-year winning streak against UCLA last week.
The Cardinal will kick-off against the Sun Devils at 1 p.m. at Stanford Stadium on Saturday. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Ariana Rollins at arianar ‘at’ stanford.edu.