The Sun Devils face Stanford at home in their only weekday game of the season after a much-needed weekend off. ASU let a golden opportunity to take control of the Pac-12 South Division slip through their fingers at Colorado. We’re going to take a look at some keys to the game for a Sun Devil victory over Stanford.
QB Manny Wilkins should be able to connect on more explosive plays this week. The Stanford defense has been more porous than the stout unit that ASU has faced in recent years. Given the Devils’ recent success in the ground game, this should open up areas down the field for play-action passing. RB Eno Benjamin has been a workhorse and the backbone of the 2018 offense, and a healthy N’Keal Harry could get back to putting up the statistics that are reminiscent of his talent. It’s imperative that the ASU jumps on the reeling Cardinal early and force them to play from behind.
When you consider that Head Coach Herm Edwards has elected to “go for it” on several 4th down critical moments, the play calling in those situations have not displayed the creativity that would confuse defenses into penalties or missed assignments. Sun Devil Nation should expect to see more “Secretariat” formations with N’Keal Harry taking snaps in the shotgun and possibly a trick play or two that Stanford has not seen on film. Introducing exotic formations and misdirection will help keep a disciplined Cardinal defense off balance and create mismatches for ASU play-makers.
Someone has to tackle someone. Inexperience in the Linebacking core has reared its ugly head for a few weeks now against stopping the run. Gap responsibility and the inability to tackle in open space has plagued this defense against very good running backs. Stanford’s Bryce Love ran wild for 301 yards last year against the Devils. The physical Cardinal offensive line will want to replicate that production this week. The Devil defense has to stuff the Cardinal at the point of attack and force Stanford QB K.J. Costello to beat them with his arm.
To date, the ASU defense only has 3 interceptions. This will be the difference in this game. The Sun Devil defense will have to win the turnover battle. They faced one of the best receivers in the nation last week, but locking down the outside will be key. If DT Wrenel Wrenn can get in the backfield routinely, look for the Devils to make plays on defense.
There’s not another college program that has the special teams that we possess here. No one wants this to come down to a kicking game, but the Devils should have a decisive advantage.
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