It’s been a wild and wacky week around Arizona State football. It seems the entire gridiron world has been buzzing about the Sun Devils’ dramatic victory against Wisconsin last Saturday night.
How did the officials manage to botch the final outcome? Did Arizona State really deserve to win?
Forget about it.
While Badger fans in Madison continue to fume, ASU Head Coach Todd Graham’s team has buckled down in preparation for their matchup with No. 5 Stanford this Saturday. The Cardinal is favored in this contest, but we think ASU has a decent chance to come away with a win. Here’s why:
Reason #1: Stanford may not be the same powerhouse as in recent years
Most people would agree that Stanford football has been an efficient machine the past few seasons. Coach David Shaw has forged a tight and disciplined unit that seldom has letdowns — regardless of the opponent.
This year, however, the Cardinal have given hints that they may not be invincible. Case in point: their less-than-scintillating 34-20 victory at Army last week. Quarterback Kevin Hogan had an unimpressive game against the outmanned Black Knights, with an interception and two fumbles. Receiver Ty Montgomery posted six catches for 130 yards and a touchdown, but he didn’t perform like the premier wide-out Stanford will need to beat Pac-12 competition.
Cardinal defensive end Henry Anderson will be out with a knee injury against ASU. According to Shaw, Anderson, a second-team all-conference selection last year, will miss a few weeks but is expected to return later this season. But that won’t be soon enough to slow down ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly and his cadre of offensive weapons. The Sun Devils piled up 468 total yards against Wisconsin, including 352 through the air.
Stanford linebacker Blake Martinez will also miss Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury, and cornerback Barry Browning is listed as doubtful.
Reason #2: ASU has a complete package on both sides of the ball
Much has been made of Stanford’s size and depth in the trenches. The O-line, in particular, is credited with powering the impressive Cardinal ground attack.
Let’s not forget, however, that while Stanford lives by the power running game, it can also die by it. Arizona State gave up far too many yards and big plays to Wisconsin’s similar offensive scheme, but it also has the benefit of sharpening its defensive strategy based on last week’s experience with the Badgers.
It’s not an overstatement to claim the Sun Devils possess one of the Pac-12’s most complete offensive and defensive packages. Kelly has completed 63.4 percent of his passes so far this season, with five touchdowns and only one interception. RB Marion Grice has scored five rushing touchdowns and caught nine passes with another going for a score. WR Jaelen Strong, a coveted 6’4” junior college transfer, has 12 catches, while all-purpose back/receiver D.J. Foster has 11 catches.
A talented and aggressive ASU defensive squad led by last year’s Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, DT Will Sutton, is on pace for another standout season. Sutton, along with linebackers Carl Bradford and Chris Young, will provide a stiff challenge for Hogan and the rest of the Stanford offense.
Advantage: Toss Up
Reason #3: The Sun Devils are due for a true statement game
Graham made a name for himself as a giant killer during previous coaching stops at Tulsa and Rice. Leading the lightly regarded Golden Hurricane, he even managed to take down mighty Notre Dame.
But wait, you say. The Sun Devils have not fared well against quality opponents of late. They went 0-4 last season against Pac-12 teams who finished with a winning conference record.
It may not matter this week.
At Stanford, ASU will be on a mission to gain redemption. They’ve endured days of second-guessing and, in some cases, downright ridicule over their controversial defeat of Wisconsin. Some college football “experts” have even suggested the game deserves an asterisk in the win column.
It’s a good bet Graham’s staff has posted this material on their bulletin board, and the Sun Devils will be anxious to prove that last Saturday’s triumph was no fluke.