Pundits are breaking down the intricacies of the Arizona State vs. Stanford matchup, but coach Todd Graham believes the turnover battle will decide the outcome. Graham consistently praised Stanford's mental discipline and mistake free approach after Thursday's practice.
"Very simple plan, we've got to take care of the football," Graham said. "They've (Stanford) had 26 straight games that they've caused the other team to turn the football over. The key to us winning the game is 100 percent ball security."
Graham also thinks the more physical team will prevail. Outmuscling Stanford may seem unlikely yet it's vital for the Sun Devils. The battle in the trenches should be very heated as All-American Will Sutton takes on All-American guard David Yankey.
Despite the hard work and preparation throughout the week, Graham can never be sure his team is ready to play. Graham mentioned the intensity level surrounding practice continues to improve daily.
"These guys have learned how to prepare, we prepare well," Graham said. "It's (preparation) not to my satisfaction, but we are getting there. That'll take years to get it to where I want it to be. I feel really good about where our guys are."
There will be plenty of predictions surrounding the ASU-Stanford game, the sole encounter between AP top 25 opponents in week four. From Graham's perspective, we could in for a nail bitter.
"I believe this game will come down to a series. May be one down, may be 12 inches, so it's every down and and every play," Graham said.
Slowing down the Cardinal's powerful rushing attack will be ASU's top priority on the defensive side of the ball. According to Graham, Carl Bradford's improvement at stopping the run should play a pivotal role. Bradford drew compliments from Graham because he "dominated the tight ends last week against Wisconsin."
Despite the glaring differences in scheme, Graham and Stanford coach David Shaw both harp on discipline. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils are still searching for their own identity, as the Cardinal are notorious for imposing their will on opponents.
"Their team isn't going to penalized very much, they are not going to beat themselves, not going to turn the football over. They play hard nose defense and run the football and play action pass," Graham on Stanford's foundation. "So if you asked me when I first got here to describe what kind of team I wanted, that's it. They are the champions and deserve the respect."
Other practice notes
- True freshman reserve linebackers, Chans Cox and Alani Latu donned the green no contact jersey. Cox hurt his arm during position drills on Wednesday, while Latu appears to be nursing an ankle injury.
- Todd Graham will not change any of his road rituals from last season.
- "The team walk is all about visualization. I want them to visualize the people who've came before them and the price they paid. Who put you here?" Graham said. "The last 50 yards I want them to visualize what they are going to do to honor that. Our former players do the walk with them."
- 6-foot-6 261-pound Stanford linebacker, Trent Murphy, garnered praise from Graham. Murphy is from Arizona and played high school football at Brophy. "He plays the same position that Carl Bradford plays. Athleticism, very smart, grant instinct, great pass rusher, very physical on the edge." Graham said.
- Advice for Graham: He told us he doesn't want to say "more special" because it's grammatically incorrect. Who can help him out?