For the first and only time in the month of October, the Arizona State Sun Devils will play a home football game.
ASU hosts the Stanford Cardinal on Thursday evening at Sun Devil Stadium, both teams have struggled of late and are looking to get back on track this week.
Stanford has been one of the preeminent powers in the Pac-12 North and are consistently ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation. David Shaw’s team has taken a step back in 2018, but still possess a strong challenge for Arizona State.
Here’s what the Cardinal do well.
Potentail holes in the defense
Stanford won’t be trotting out their typical stout defensive unit on Thursday night.
Arizona State offensive coordinator Rob Likens has stated that he believes ASU can find holes within the Cardinal defense by using a balanced attack.
“We saw some people complete some passes against them in the secondary,” Likens said. “They’ve (also) given up some rushing yards that they probably are not accustomed to.”
Part of Stanford’s struggles have been losing good players the past few seasons, they got of the gates 4-0 but were easily bested by stronger opponents in Notre Dame and Utah.
If ASU is able to keep Stanford’s defense in check with their passing game, they have a chance to move the ball better than anticipated.
Containing Bryce Love
Easier said than done.
The Sun Devils had a front-row seat to Love’s 301-yard rushing performance last season against them in Palo Alto.
Love is a dynamic runner with speed being his best asset. ASU defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales coached the defense that beat Stanford without Love last season for San Diego State, and he’s well aware of the challenge Love presents.
“He’s a 4.3 (40-yard dash speed) kid that every time he touches it can go the distance,” Gonzales said. “We have to make sure that when we tackle him we have to get multiple bodies there, because he’ll make you miss.”
Love’s health will be an important factor in the matchup as he missed the Cardinal’s loss last week to Utah after being injured against Notre Dame. He is probable to play Thursday night.
Winning out of halftime
Much has been made about ASU’s struggles in the middle of games, especially in the third quarter.
ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins notes that he thinks his team gets too amped up for the beginning of the game but then fall flat in the middle and hits a lull.
Stanford is not a team that does this. Perhaps it’s coaching, perhaps it’s the established winning culture that helps them push through a full 60-minute game.
For ASU to steal the win at home, they will need to play a complete game and not fall into the same traps that have doomed them in previous losses.