With or without Bryce Love, Stanford’s offense poses a threat to ASU football on both sides on the ball.
It took only two weeks for Stanford to go from No. 7 in the country to unranked after suffering back-to-back defeats to Notre Dame and Utah.
The Cardinal (4-2), like the Sun Devils are coming off of a bye week trying to redeem of what’s left of their season.
At one point viewed as a potential College Football Playoff contender, the consecutive defeats now put Stanford in a peculiar spot. Even if they were to win out for the rest of the season, Stanford at best are Rose Bowl participants.
Regardless of the recent track record, David Shaw‘s team will be one of ASU’s toughest opponents this season. The Cardinal have talent all over the field with former Heisman candidate Bryce Love, quarterback K.J Costello and wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside.
Here’s how the Cardinal shape up this week heading into Tempe this Thursday night.
Quarterback: K.J. Costello
Despite throwing six interceptions on the season, K.J. Costello has improved from here he was a season ago with the Cardinal.
After battling with Keller Chryst for the starting job at quarterback a season ago, Costello has not only emerged as the man under center for Stanford but has also thrown for 38 more yards in five less games played.
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Costello has been more efficient completing over 60 percent of his passes (something he did not do last year) and averaging over a yard more per passing attempt than he did a season ago.
On pace to throw more touchdowns this season as well, Costello is unquestionably the starting quarterback of this Stanford team.
Running back: Bryce Love
A left ankle injury suffered against Notre Dame kept Love, a preseason Heisman candidate, out of the lineup against Utah a week ago.
Last season, Love rushed for over 2,000 yards and scored 19 touchdowns for the Cardinal as a junior.
The ankle injury, a recurring issue for Love, has hampered the star running back’s season. Love this year only has 327 rushing yards while missing two games already this season.
Love a season ago set the single-game school rushing yard record with 301 yards on the ground against ASU.
If Love does suit up against ASU on Thursday, then the only chance the Sun Devils have at a victory is to stop the talented senior at all costs.
Top Weapon: JJ Arcega-Whiteside
Stanford head into Tempe with five receivers with over 100 receiving yards on the season but JJ Arcega-Whiteside has by far had the greatest impact on Stanford this season.
Arcega-Whiteside is tied for third in the country in receiving touchdowns with eight. The senior’s 541 receiving yards leads the team and his 18 yards per catch is tops on the team as well.
Costello’s other notable weapons in Kaden Smith (382 receiving yards) and Trenton Irwin (284 receiving yards) are certainly dangerous but Arcega-Whiteside will be the man to watch when it comes to the Stanford passing attack this week.
Despite the weapons Stanford has on offense, the Cardinal defense has, in some respects, outperformed the Cardinal offense this season.
Stanford is 39th in the country in opponents points per game, allowing opposing offense to score only 22 points per contest. In comparison, the Cardinal’s attack ranks 92nd in the nation in points per game.
Defensively, Stanford has only surrendered 253.3 yards per game through the air. Linebackers Bobby Okereke and Sean Barton are the two leading tackles on the team with a combined 85 total tackles on the season.
Despite the solid numbers against the pass, the Cardinal have struggled against the rush as opponents have rushed for, on average, 164.3 yards per game.
Stanford’s defense is not dominant by any means but this unit has certainly been a solid one for David Shaw’s team in 2018.
Consecutive blow-out losses to Notre Dame and Utah places the Cardinal in a position of weakness for ASU this Thursday night.
But, the last thing Herm Edwards’ team can afford this week is to underestimate a Stanford team that only a handful of weeks ago was the No. 7 team in the nation.