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ASU Football Opponent Primer: Stanford Cardinal

Biggest question mark on the schedule?

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Stanford Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

ASU’s 2022 Football Schedule

9/1: vs. NAU

9/10: @ #12 Oklahoma State

9/17: vs. Eastern Michigan

9/24: vs. #7 Utah

10/1: @ #14 USC

10/8: vs. Washington

10/15 BYE

10/22: @ Stanford

10/29: @ Colorado

11/5: vs. UCLA

11/12: @ Washington State

11/19: vs. Oregon State

11/25: @ Arizona

Congratulations! You’ve made it to week eight of the college football season and you’re still invested in this ASU football team! There may have been some hard-fought games against Oklahoma State, Utah and USC, but after playing Washington you’re asking yourself; “what’s the word on Stanford?”

Well, you’ve come to the right place. The answers you seek from this opponent primer may be a bit confusing, because that’s exactly what the Stanford Cardinal are in 2022. The jury is still out on what exactly this team is capable of after going 3-9 in 2021, but here’s everything you need to know about the Sun Devils’ week eight matchup.

Stanford head coach David Shaw has seen his team go from the cream-of-the-crop in the Pac-12 to one that has so many question marks on both sides of the ball. Both their offense and defense has the talent to make noise in the conference, but has no concrete evidence that their stars can rise to the occasion at the same time.

The Offense:

Stanford has a lush history of great starting quarterbacks over the years with studs like Andrew Luck, KJ Costello and Davis Mills, the most recent of the bunch. There is optimism that junior starter Tanner McKee can be one of those elite Stanford guys.

McKee looks like he was made in a quarterback laboratory, standing at 6-foot-6-inches and weighing in at 230 lbs. The man is a unit, and he can sling the rock effectively when he has help around him. McKee threw for over 2,300 yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging a little more than 230 passing yards in his 10 games. He did throw 7 interceptions, but his 138 quarterback rating in his first full season is a good stepping stone going into year two.

The receivers are arguably the strongest part of the offense. With big, strong guys like tight end Benjamin Yurosek and Elijah Higgins lined up on the outside, there will be matchup problems for opposing defensive backs. Stanford has four wide-outs standing at 6-foot-3 or taller, including 6-foot-5 junior John Humphreys who can really go up and get it.

With McKee set to make a leap, the receiving core Stanford has put together can perhaps carry the load in this offense, because it’s been a rough go of it on the ground.

The Stanford running game has been anything but dominant ever since the prodigal son, Christian McCaffrey, was drafted back in 2017. Unfortunately, it looks shaky for 2022 as well.

Although the offensive line is filled with the experience of four returners, such as Myles Hinton and Walter Rouse at the tackle positions, there’s no telling what the RBs Stanford is bringing back can do with the football. The top two backs from 2021, Nathaniel Peat and Austin Jones, transferred to Missouri and USC, respectively. Even though Stanford averaged just under 90 yards on the ground in 2021, they do have junior EJ Smith primed to take the majority of the handoffs, hoping he can be more than just a goal line threat.

The Defense:

This is where ASU, along with the rest of the schools Stanford will play, can really do damage. The defense for Stanford last season was, for lack of a better term, non-existent. According to, the Cardinal were ranked 114th in the country in total defense, giving up 451 yards per game in 2021.

Shaw’s defensive lineup will be almost completely reset after losing a bunch of seniors. But, they will have their leading tackler and team captain Levani Damuni returning. The pass rush in 2021 was bad, with their leader in sacks, Stephen Herron, collecting just three all season.

They do have freshman edge-rusher David Bailey coming in ready to make more plays in the backfield and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but other than that, the struggles against the run game will remain if they can’t win their battles in the trenches.

The best chance they have for success on defense is in the secondary. Kyu Blu Kelly is the most NFL-caliber defender on the roster with 2 interceptions and 10 pass break-ups last year, and Kendall Williamson was one of the teams leading tacklers at the strong safety position. Along with those two, Stanford brought in the Oklahoma transfer, Patrick Fields to strengthen their core of defensive backs.


The common denominator on both sides of the ball for the Cardinal is the run game. They need to be able to establish the run on offense in order to open up the passing game for a talented quarterback and receivers. But, 90 yards per game on the ground is nowhere near enough, especially when you give up 230 rushing yards per game on the other side. On defense, they’re similarly set up with talent in the secondary and over the top, but if they can’t stop the run on 1st, 2nd, or 3rd down, it leaves them vulnerable to more of the same results they’ve seen over the past few years.

How to win:

In this situation, it’s important to not beat yourself. Staying within the offense, running the ball effectively in early down situations, and taking time off the clock will be the keys on offense. It’s the Herm way.

On defense, if you can stop their running attack, it will put them into situations to force the ball downfield, opening up the possibility of an interception or a big sack.

If ASU can dominate the run game on both sides of the ball, it could add up to a win for the Sun Devils in October.


The remaining opponent primers will be posted closer to their matchup dates after the bye week.