SUN DEVILS’ KEYS TO VICTORY: 1. Focus, everyone: Remember how it was said and written that coach Dennis Erickson would put an end to the sleepwalking Sun Devil efforts that occasionally occurred under Dirk Koetter?
SUN DEVILS’ KEYS TO VICTORY
1. Focus, everyone: Remember how it was said and written that coach Dennis Erickson would put an end to the sleepwalking Sun Devil efforts that occasionally occurred under Dirk Koetter? This game that is ripe for a letdown will provide the first test.
2. Off in a hurry: A slow start, as ASU has had in two of its four games, can be recovered from easily at home. It is more challenging on the road — especially against a squad that, like Stanford, is keeping dumb mistakes and penalties to a minimum.
3. Cornerbacks get tough: The Cardinal beat the Sun Devils in 2005 in part with lob passes that their receivers outdueled ASU cornerbacks for. Stanford’s wideouts — especially Evan Moore, a 6-foot-7 senior who has played basketball at the school — are capable of winning jump-ball battles.
OUT: DL Kellen Mills (ankle); DL Michael Marquardt (ankle); DL Tranell Morant (knee); LB Gerald Munns (knee); LB Jamarr Robinson (knee); QB Samson Szakacsy (elbow); CB Travis Smith (ankle) QUESTIONABLE: RB Jarrell Woods (ankle) PROBABLE: S Josh Barrett (pectoral muscle); DL Saia Falahola (triceps); TE Brent Miller (knee); RB Dimitri Nance (ankle); WR Brandon Smith (ankle)
OUT: LB Fred Campbell (knee); RB Toby Gerhart (knee); RB Emeka Nnoli (hip); OL Allen Smith (knee); DL Ekom Udofia (ankle); RB Sam Weinberger (illness)
PROBABLE: LB Clinton Snyder (thigh); CB Nick Sanchez (hamstring)
A win would also give ASU its seventh 5-0 start (1970, ’73, ’75, ’82, ’96, 2004) in the past 40 years. Also, the Sun Devils would end a frustrating losing streak — standing at 14 games, dating back to 1999 — in Pac-10 games in the state of California. For Stanford, a victory (especially in a conference game) is crucial to building momentum for a difficult two-game stretch against Southern California and Texas Christian.
WHEN ASU HAS THE BALL
The Sun Devils have not had this kind of balance on offense in quite some time, with Ryan Torain leading an productive running attack and quarterback Rudy Carpenter returning to his 2005 form. ASU appears to be getting more eager to attempt deep passes — four of the team’s five longest receptions of the year were against Oregon State last week. The main area of concern is the offensive line, as Carpenter is taking too many hits and has had to scramble too much.
Key matchup: ASU WR Michael Jones vs. Stanford CB Wopamo Osaisai — Jones has developed into the receiving corps’ big-play threat, with five touchdowns (or one every 3.4 times he touches the ball) this year. Osaisai, a junior who one of the fastest players on the Cardinal defense, has six pass breakups.
WHEN STANFORD HAS THE BALL
Quarterback T.C. Ostrander has matured greatly since the end of last year, showing a strong arm and good decision-making while leading the offense to 28.3 points and 435.3 yards a game. The Cardinal have good balance between running back Anthony Kimble and receivers Evan Moore and Mark Bradford, but the squad took a huge hit with the loss of left tackle Allen Smith, who underwent surgery for a torn patella tendon in his left knee.
Key matchup: Stanford LT Ben Muth vs. ASU DE Dexter Davis — Muth is the fill-in for Allen Smith, who some Cardinal observers feel has been the most valuable offensive player. Lining up opposite Davis, who has two sacks and is regarded as the Sun Devils’ top pass rusher, will provide Muth, a graduate of Phoenix Pinnacle High, with a challenging first collegiate start.
SCOUTING THE CARDINAL
Stanford is not about to contend for a Bowl Championship Series bid soon, but first-year coach Jim Harbaugh has provided the energy to lift the program out from under the rubble of Walt Harris’ two-year regime. The Cardinal are playing with more intensity and discipline, but the talent, especially on defense, must be upgraded. Still, Stanford is capable of sneaking up on a Pac-10 opponent.
Sept. 1 ASU 45, San Jose State 3
Sept. 8 ASU 33, Colorado 14
Sept. 15 ASU 34, San Diego State 13
Sept. 22 ASU 44, Oregon State 32
Today at Stanford, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 at Washington State, 1 p.m.
Oct. 13 Washington, TBD
Oct. 27 California, 7 p.m.
Nov. 3 at Oregon, 3:30 p.m.
Nov. 10 at UCLA, TBD
Nov. 22 Southern California, 6 p.m.
Dec. 1 Arizona, 6 p.m.
Arizona State at Stanford
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Stanford Stadium, Palo Alto, Calif.
TV/Announcers: FSN Arizona/Ted Robinson, Juan Roque and Todd Husak
Radio: KTAR (92.3 FM)
Records: ASU 4-0 overall, 1-0 Pac-10; Stanford 1-2, 0-2
Rankings: ASU No. 23 Associated Press/No. 25 USA Today (coaches); Stanford unranked
Series: ASU leads 14-9 but has lost four straight games in Palo Alto
Last meeting: Oct. 21, 2006 at Tempe — ASU 38, Stanford 3
Line: ASU by 14