Following bye week, Sun Devils host struggling Stanford
A bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for Arizona State.
Before it had the week off, ASU had lost three of its last four, most recently falling to Colorado on the road 28-21.
In the loss, the Sun Devils ran out of gas on offense in the second half, scoring just seven points in the game’s last 30 minutes. Defensively, the Sun Devils imploded, allowing 494 yards of offense to the Buffaloes.
Thursday, Arizona State hosts another team that hasn’t played its best football lately: Stanford. Riding a two-game losing streak, the Cardinal still enter this week 4-2 and tied for second in the Pac-12 North.
What: Arizona State vs. Stanford
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
What is Bryce Love’s status for Thursday?
Last year he was the Heisman runner-up, but this season, Stanford running back Bryce Love has dealt with injuries throughout the season. Love missed his second game of the year in Week 6 against Utah with an ankle injury, and in his absence, Stanford rushed for just 42 yards as a team.
His status for Thursday is questionable, but ASU head coach Herm Edwards said in his weekly press conference that he expects him to play. However, Stanford’s head coach, David Shaw, said he isn’t as confident in Love’s status as he was at the end of last week.
When he’s played this year, Love has been productive, averaging over four yards per carry with 327 yards and three touchdowns total. If Love is unable to play, the carries will likely be split between backs Trevor Speights and Cameron Scarlett.
Who will win the battle of elite receivers?
Though Love is probably the most well-known player in this game, Arizona State and Stanford both have elite receivers on their rosters. Stanford’s JJ Arcega-Whiteside and ASU’s N’Keal Harry are fourth and fifth in the Pac-12 in receiving, respectively, and both of them have shown their abilities to make spectacular catches.
While Arcega-Whiteside has only exceeded 100 receiving yards twice this year, he leads the Pac-12 in receiving touchdowns with eight. Harry has seen his production decline this year, in part because of double teams he’s picked up in most games this year. Even so, Harry has still been a force in the Sun Devils’ offense, catching five touchdowns and accumulating 481 receiving yards.
Harry limped off the field after a Colorado defender blindsided him in the loss two weeks ago. In spite of this, Edwards said Harry should be good to go Thursday.
“I thought the bye came at a good time for us,” Edwards said. “It really did because we’ve had some guys that are nicked up. He’s been practicing, so we anticipate everyone on deck.”
Casey Tucker faces former team
Prior to transferring, ASU offensive tackle Casey Tucker played for Stanford and started the majority of the 2015 and 2016 seasons before an injury that led to his departure from the university.
This year, Tucker has started five of the six games for the Sun Devils, missing one with injury. Tucker’s presence has helped the Sun Devils so far this season, as the team is No. 20 in sacks allowed.
Because of his years with the Cardinal, Tucker could help the Sun Devils know what to expect against his former team.
Which defense will step up?
While Arizona State’s defense has certainly improved since last year, neither of the defenses in Thursday’s game are elite. Both ASU and Stanford are allowing around 20 points and 400 yards per game, which isn’t horrible.
In its last two games, however, Stanford has allowed 38 and 40 points to Notre Dame and Utah, respectively. The Sun Devils have struggled stopping the run recently, allowing a combined 562 yards on the ground to Oregon State and Colorado.
Nevertheless, the Sun Devils lead the Pac-12 in turnover margin with plus-5. Stanford’s turnover margin is also positive at plus-1.
In a game where scoring could be at a premium, whichever defense forces more takeaways could have the advantage.
Key Sun Devils
QB Manny Wilkins
Senior quarterback Manny Wilkins was shaken up in the loss to Colorado, but after a week off, he’s expected to be ready for Thursday. Although not shown by his stats, Wilkins had struggled with accuracy on the deep ball before his injury, and his last 300-yard game came against San Diego State in Week 3.
In spite of this, Wilkins has thrown only one interception the entire season, which is tied for the best in conference with a minimum of 100 pass attempts.
CB Chase Lucas
Cornerback Chase Lucas is third on ASU in tackles for loss and fifth in total tackles, but against Colorado, he had a rough game. Matched up against Colorado’s star receiver Laviska Shenault, Lucas was shredded, missing plenty of tackles while allowing two touchdowns and more than 100 yards.
This week, the redshirt sophomore could be matched up against Arcega-Whiteside, and to stop him, Lucas will need to step up and forget about last game.
QB K.J. Costello
At times, K.J. Costello has been great this year and played like one of the elite quarterbacks in college football. Other times, he’s been inaccurate and an interception machine. He was both in Stanford’s game against Utah.
The junior threw for 380 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw two picks. This season, Costello has thrown for 1,611 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Which Costello shows up to Tempe could play a large role in the result of the game.