After defeating Army 34-20 in their first road game of the season, the Stanford Cardinal will return to Stanford Stadium to take on an underrated Arizona State squad fresh off of an upset win over Wisconsin last week.
Stanford will have its hands full on Saturday. Looking to move to 3-0, the No. 5-ranked Cardinal will face their first true test of the season on both sides of the ball against the Sun Devils.
Arizona State has an elite defensive line, led by NFL prospects Will Sutton and Carl Bradford. Stanford’s front wall is exceptional as well, but star big men such as David Yankey and Cameron Fleming will need to continue their success against the Sun Devils’ strong defensive front.
Arizona State finished the 2012 season with 51 sacks, good enough for second in the nation. In fact, Stanford was the only team that got to the quarterback more last year, posting 57 of its own.
This means that Kevin Hogan will need to maximize on his elusive magic that he used against teams like Oregon and UCLA last season to extend plays and stay clean in the pocket. So far, Hogan has only been sacked twice in 2013, which bodes well for Saturday’s matchup.
On defense, Stanford has not lived up to its reputation as a top-tier run defense, allowing 319 yards on the ground through two games. While that is not exactly bad either, the Cardinal will need to improve against Arizona State’s dynamic attack starring all-purpose stud Marion Grice and the dual-threat quarterback Taylor Kelly.
Kelly is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the nation, and can hurt you in a number of ways. Through only
two games, he has posted over 700 total yards and five touchdowns. He has also developed a nice rapport with outside playmakers D.J. Foster and Jaelen Strong.
This means that the front seven needs to get into the backfield early and often. Ben Gardner, Shayne Skov, and James Vaughters will likely be utilized in creative ways to stop the Sun Devils’ strong offensive attack, and need to contain Kelly, Grice, and their athletic teammates.
Looking at the matchups, this should be one of Stanford’s toughest tests this season, as Arizona State has a great shot to push for a Pac-12 South crown by the end of this year.
The game kicks off at 4:00 p.m. PT on Saturday, so be sure to tune in for the Cardinal’s conference opener.