The Cardinal out muscled and outmatched the Sun Devils in two meetings last season. One in Palo Alto and the other in Tempe for the Pac-12 Championship game which saw Stanford outscore ASU 80-49 in the two games. And that point total is almost closer than the stories from each game would tell you.
But could the third time be the charm? ASU understands what it takes to beat the them even though they know it will not be easy.
“I think what makes them a challenge in any year and one of the best teams in the league is because they are the best prepared and one of the most disciplined,” said Todd Graham. “They are not going to beat themselves.”
However, Graham does note that there is one small difference he has seen from them in 2014.
“Probably the only difference from last year and this year is you see are turnovers and things like that that are uncharacteristic,” he explained. “But you can’t depend on those things. You have to focus on yourself and your execution.”
The turnovers have been the difference not just in the games that ASU has lost to Stanford, but the five games they have lost in 2013 and 2014 combined. In those five games combined, ASU has 11 turnovers to their opponents’ four. It is usually the case, lose the turnover battle, lose the game which is why Todd Graham preaches “100% ball security.”
Stanford who rarely makes mistakes and beats themselves, which is reflected in their success over the last few seasons, is turning over the ball much more so for their standards. They have seven turnovers in their first six games this season and have fumbled the ball eight times in that span though they have only lost three of them.
For a young ASU defense that has had some issues of missing tackles and giving up the big play at times, being ball hawks and forcing turnovers could be the thing that pushes the team over the hump. Containing wide receiver Ty Montgomery will also be no easy task but key for the Sun Devils defense.
To this point it is still not clear if the starting quarterback will be Mike Bercovici for the third straight week or it if will be the return of Taylor kelly. That notion is not a concern for Graham. But there is one area of the offense that he is hoping to see some improvement.
“Probably the area I am wanting to see us step up the most at is at the tight end position,” mentioned Graham. “That’s a position that really needs to continue to progress at a great pace. And I think we can because De’Marieya (Nelson) is finally getting healthy. So look for him and Kody (Kohl) to really step up at that position.”
Saturday could be a huge point in the season for the Sun Devils season as they have the always difficult task of playing Washington in Seattle, then Utah and Notre Dame at home in consecutive weeks. The Jael-Mary was exciting and a way to salvage a win at the end of the day, but getting over that proverbial hump with Stanford heading into the ladder stages of the season could bring immense confidence for a team that controls it’s own destiny in the Pac-12 South.