Stanford at Arizona State: 5 Things to Know
On Saturday night, the battle between the 17th ranked Arizona State Sun Devils and the 23rd ranked Stanford Cardinal will be an old school, knock down brawl between two powerful programs out west.
The game is a rematch from the 2013 PAC 12 Championship game where Stanford prevailed on the home turf of the Sun Devils 42-28, and earned their 2nd consecutive Rose Bowl bid.
Not much as changed this season, as both programs are playing at a high level and are looking to continue on their paths towards another chance at a PAC 12 title game. Stanford has the top defense in the country, and the Sun Devils still can move the ball on offense at a high success rate. This will be a war of contrasting styles, and should be one of the more entertaining games to watch on Saturday.
Here are the five things to watch:
Sun Devils QB Quandary: Arizona State Head Coach Todd Graham has intimated that he plans on using a two Quarterback system with Junior Mike Bercovici getting the bulk of the snaps. Bercovici deserves the right to get the chance to start after his outstanding performance last week by leading the Sun Devils over the USC Trojans. Bercovici threw for over 510 yards and five scores this past weekend, and Coach Graham was highly impressed with Bercovici’s poise under the bright lights. This will be a huge test for Bercovici as Stanford has been dominant to start the season on the defensive side of the ball, led by Free Safety Zach Hoffpauir.
Arizona State Offensive Line versus the Stanford “Front Seven”: Last week, the offensive line for the Sun Devils played their best game of the season against a USC Trojans defensive front that included All American Defensive End Leonard Williams. This week, the Sun Devils will have a major test in trying to contain the front seven of the Stanford Cardinal as Senior Nose Tackle David Parry, and Senior Defensive End Henry Anderson have be spectacular so far this season. The Sun Devils will be in for a fight this weekend, and if they are able to keep their young Quarterback upright, they will have a chance at victory.
Stanford Red Zone Issues: To say that the Stanford Cardinal are having issues in the Red Zone is an understatement. The Cardinal rank in the bottom 10% in Red Zone efficiency, and this inefficiency has cost the Cardinal two victories that were well within their grasp. Stanford needs to clean this up if they are to have any chance against a young and hungry Sun Devils squad.
Special Teams may determine the game: The Stanford Cardinal has one of the most exciting return men in the game with Senior Ty Montgomery. Montgomery can break open the game with the ball in his hands, and can easily be a difference maker. The Sun Devils will have to be well aware of any time that Montgomery is on the field as he has the ability to take it to the end zone at a moment’s notice. The Sun Devils have not been successful at containing return men to start off the season, and will be tasked with containing one of the best in the nation.
Coaching: Arizona State Head Coach Todd Graham and Stanford Coach David Shaw have contrasting coaching styles to say the least. Coach David Shaw has been known to be reserved on the sideline, and exhibits few instances of high emotion, while Coach Graham is highly energetic, and known to do whatever it takes to fire up his team. Both coaches however are the same as they emphasize the fundamentals of the game, and to be disciplined on the field. This year has been uncharacteristic of a David Shaw led team, as they have been penalized more this year than almost all of last year, and Shaw takes the blame. Shaw has been adamant recently in practice about getting back to the basics, and being smart on the field. Coach Graham has had to deal with injuries to his top Quarterback, but has kept his team focused and playing at a top level. One thing is for certain, both coaches will have their teams prepared for the battle in Tempe.