We also caught a glimpse of ASU’s more versatile passing game. Don’t expect to see a repeat of last week’s epidemic of dropped balls.
Tempe, AZ – To the untrained eye, the prospect of the 2013 Sun Devils facing #20 Wisconsin and #5 Stanford in back-to-back weeks early in the season seems like a great way to ruin a promising season.
However after a narrow, if not controversial, win against Wisconsin on Saturday, #23 ASU has a more solid blueprint for facing Stanford than any game film could ever provide.
The Cardinal have put their proverbial fingerprint on the Pac-12 as the predominant power running team that evokes old-school physical football combined with the skill players to run with anyone in the country.
Here’s what to watch when ASU takes the field against the Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champions this Saturday.
Chapter 1: Stanford Offense
Junior RB Tyler Gaffney has rushed for over 100 yards in each game this season. The Cardinal will still line up in double and triple tight end formations and find success running between the tackles against anyone in the country.
The biggest differences between what ASU saw on Saturday against the Badgers and this week are the upgrades in talent at WR and QB. Signal caller Kevin Hogan is very mobile player.
They are a much more balanced offense (412 yds passing, 395 yds rushing) this season with play-calling that will take advantage of whatever a defense gives them. Look for Stanford to replicate on the ground what we saw on Saturday, but with faster and deeper personnel than Wisconsin.
The Cardinal O-line is littered with 4 and 5* recruits who are the perfect mix of athleticism, size, technique, and toughness. Sutton, Bradford and thedefensive front are walking into another tough fight.
Chapter 2: Stanford Defense
This is the same defense that shut down an explosive Oregon squad last year. The Cardinal allowed all of 17.2 points per game in 2012. 4* OLB Noor Davis get’s sideline-to-sideline against the fastest offensive players anywhere. That just happens to be the space where the Devils typically exploit their opponents.
Stanford lines up in a “one-gapping,” attacking 3-4 system with players who are beyond disciplined and smart. My prediction is that we see more wrinkles and blitzes than the Cardinal have shown to date this season.
Chapter 3: ASU Offense
After two games this season, the ASU O-line has been underwhelming at creating lanes for their star-studded RB’s to run through.
The Devils were able to get away with airing it out last week against Wisconsin due to a resounding advantage against an athletically inferior Badger secondary. However, Stanford has the athletes, scheme, and discipline to shut down great offensives.
Mental, disciplinary, and schematic breakdowns against Stanford will prove to be insurmountable in getting securing this high-profile PAC-12 win”
We certainly saw some mistakes last Saturday in Tempe, but we also caught a glimpse of a more versatile passing game. Don’t expect to see a repeat of last week’s epidemic of dropped balls.
The between-the-tackles run game has GOT to be more successful this week in order for the Devils to do what they do best… make Stanford defenders commit to the run and get play-makers the ball in space.
ASU must be more balanced and create threats in both the rushing and receiving game to have a chance against a top-3 defense in the country.
Chapter 4: ASU on Defense
I was incorrect in thinking that ASU would struggle containing the Badger inside run. I was sorely, and thankfully, mistaken.
ASU LB, #21 Chris Young
Surprisingly, Wisconsin gained the majority of their rushing yards on big plays to the outside. Coach Graham and DC Paul Randolph have emphasized a more assignment-sound secondary this week.
Again, mental, disciplinary, and schematic breakdowns against Stanford will prove to be insurmountable in getting that elusive “big conference win” against an elite top-10 foe.
I don’t believe ASU’s formidable pass rush will dominate an elite O-line and force Hogan into many bad decisions. I hope to see more blitzes from our corners and better jamming of receivers at the line of scrimmage to disrupt timing routes.
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The Sun Devils have the talent and depth to compete with anyone in the country. But they’ve had just four quarters to show the country a glimpse.
If ASU is to battle into the final minutes on Saturday, they will need to execute some of their best football of their season. And if they do, we will have confirmed what we had hoped for this 2013 team.
As they say, the most important game of the season is the one you’re about to play. Well in 24 hours, it’s game time. #AnyChallenge
Stanford Stadium (Palo Alto, CA)