Friday, September 5, 2008

ASU-Stanford Game Preview & Breakdown

As we get ready for the Pac-10 opener against Stanford on Saturday, let's break down the match-ups and preview the other conference games this weekend.

-- Quarterbacks -- Devils
The edge here is way in favor of the Sun Devils. QB Rudy Carpenter was the model of efficiency last week, completing 22-28 passes for 388 yards, the most yards by a Sun Devil quarterback in a season opener ever. Carpenter also tied a school record for most consecutive completions with 13 straight succesful passes. Stanford's QB, Travita Pritchard, won a three-way battle for the spot in the preseason and didn't have impressive passing numbers in his opening game against the Beavers. He didn't make a crucial mistake in the close game however, expect that to change against the ASU defense.

-- Running Backs -- Stanford
Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, who has a brother on the ASU team, rumbled for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Cardinal's win. Gerhart missed most of last year with an injury, but returned to form and is a very powerful runner who can be difficult to tackle. The Sun Devils running game struggled a bit in their opener against the 'Jacks, as QB Carpenter led all rushers with 40 yards on QB scrambles. Expect a boost to the running game this week however, as Herring and DeWitty return to the rotation. Also, NAU ran an unique defense that made running the ball extremely difficult. Just because of these few question marks last game, all of which have a reasonable answer however, I give a slight edge to the Cardinal run game.

-- Wide Receivers -- Devils
The Sun Devils will be winning this battle nearly every game this year. A talented receiving corps will look to create havoc for defenses and help Carpenter put up some big numbers in his senior season. The group is led by Mike Jones, who is nursing a strained achilles but should play come Saturday. Jones had six catches for 162 yards last week and had a bad-luck fumble as he reached for the endzone on one long reception. Look for Taylor and Robinson to see a lot of passes thrown their way in this game too, especially if the Cardinal key against the Devils run game. And of course, Chris McGaha should see his fair share of Carpenter's throws.

-- OL vs. DL -- Draw
The Sun Devils have the stronger defensive line, with defensive ends Dexter Davis and Luis Vasquez leading the attack. Both are relentless in their pass rush and should create problems for Pritchard all game long. Davis recorded two sacks last weekend against NAU. Also watch for DT David Smith for the Devils, a somewhat undersized DT, he makes up for it with speed and savvy.
The Cardinal get the slight advantage of the offensive lines. Stanford's front line isn't overwhelming and will struggle with the Devils defensive front, but until the ASU line proves itself against a formidable opponent the edge goes to the visitor's offensive line.

-- Linebackers -- Stanford
Most likely the best group on the Stanford defense, their linebackers will use plenty of blitzes to try and test the ASU O-Line and force Carpenter to make rush decisions. For the Devils, Mike Nixon leads the linebacking corps, a somewhat underrated (myself included in underrating them) group on the strong Sun Devil defense.

-- Defensive Backs -- ASU
ASU's Troy Nolan, Rodney Cox, and Terell Carr will make Pritchard think twice before going downfield with a pass. These DBs are much improved over the Beavers secondary the Cardinal faced last year and I'm predicting come away with at least an interception from Pritchard.

-- Special Teams -- ASU
ASU's All-Everything Utility Man, Thomas Weber, handles every facet of the kicking game for the Devils. The Groza Award winner connected on all three field goals last week and averaged 43 yards per punt, with two punts inside the twenty. On kick-offs he averaged 67 yards and had three touchbacks in seven attempts. The Cardinal K, Aaron Zagory, made two of three field goals last week. He hit from 41 and 42 yards out and missed a 49 yard attempt. Their punter averaged 45 yards per punt, with one inside the twenty.
The Devils line up two big play returners on kick-offs in Kyle Williams and Chris McGaha. Williams will also handle most punt return duties. Watch for Williams to take one back to the promised land this weekend.

-- The 'X' Factor -- ASU
This is one of the few legit upset games this weekend in college football. Stanford is much improved and has lost two straight to the Devils by ridiculously lopsided scores. The Cardinal will go on to upset quite a few teams this year in the Pac-10 as they keep improving under Harbough, but with all that being said with the Cardinal already having knocked off Oregon State in Week 1 the Devils won't be overlooking them in Week 2. Add that with the 100+ temperature, 9,400 students, and 68,000 fans in the House of Heat and we have a Sun Devil victory. ASU must not overlook or underestimate this team though, as they are no longer the Pac-10 cellar-dwellers.

Other Pac-10 games this week include Arizona against Toledo, California travelling to Washington State, #18 Oregon hosting Utah State and former ASU assistant Brent Guy, Oregon State going to Happy Valley to face #19 Penn State and JoePa, and the 15th ranked Stormin' Mormons heading to the Pacific Northwest to take on Washington.

1 comment:

Darrel R. said...

It doesn't count as calling it when Williams takes it back, if you call it every attempt he gets... Just saying