Even more so than Arizona State, Stanford is riding high after a monumental win that can define a season. The Cardinal may have paved a clearer path for ASU to win the conference, but Stanford also has a shot to knock off the Pac-12 favorite two weeks in a row.
The pride of Palo Alto might have the combination of the most talented-and best coached team that the Sun Devils have seen in 2021. Here are three Stanford players to watch on Friday night.
Quarterback Tanner McKee (So.)
Had Tanner McKee started the Cardinal opener against Kansas State and put up points in the first quarter, would Stanford be the Pac-12 favorite? Probably not, but it is worth wondering what would have happened if coach David Shaw went with McKee from the get-go.
The 6-foot-6 inch sophomore out of Corona alternated with then-starter Jack West in the Week 1 loss, but his play against the Wildcats earned McKee the starting job against USC. The rest is history.
A four-star recruit, he sat out two years while completing his LDS mission in Brazil, and took almost no snaps in 2020. In five games this season, he is yet to throw an interception along with his 11 touchdowns and 1093 yards in the air.
Friday’s lights will be the brightest they have been this season for the sophomore, but wins over then-ranked USC and third-ranked Oregon prove that McKee has the poise associated with his pro-style of play.
The fistfight between the Stanford passing game and the Sun Devils’ injury-ridden secondary will be the top storyline of the night.
Defensive End Thomas Booker (Sr.)
Cliche incoming, but to put it simplest, Thomas Booker is a beast. The 6-foot-4, 309-pound end is the most physical player on the Cardinal roster, and the heartbeat of its defense.
A tier below Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux on the Pac-12 defensive-linemen ranks, Booker is a future Sunday player, and a preseason first-team Pac-12 All-American. Draft experts say he can help his stock immensely by improving quickness and shaving off some of his estimated five-second 40-yard dash.
Booker’s coolest trait is his ability to flip a game on its head on special teams. Last year, he blocked a potential game-tying extra-point kick against Cal. He also recovered a fumble in that game. The next week against Washington State, he blocked another one.
A special teams menace matched up against Arizona State’s insufferable special teams unit might lead to some chaos.
Cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly (Jr.)
Kelly is the son of former Buccaneers’ cornerback (and USC Trojan) Brian Kelly. Not only did Kyu Blu Kelly not follow in his father’s footsteps in terms of his California school, he picked off Kedon Slovis last month in the Cardinal’s 42-28 triumph over USC.
Kelly is tied for first in interceptions on a unit that has forced eight in just five games, and allows under 200 passing yards per game (fifth in the conference at 191).
Last week against Oregon, Kelly had a pair of timely pass breakups. ASU quarterback Jayden Daniels last threw an interception three weeks ago at BYU, but if it happens on Friday, Kelly is most likely to be responsible.