The Sun Devils travel to Palo Alto, Calif., to take on the Cardinal at 7:15 p.m. Saturday:
Arizona State is riding high after a pivotal win against Washington last weekend. The Sun Devils are two wins away from bowl eligibility with six games remaining. The Cardinal are also looking to make a bowl game, which would be the first for Stanford since 2001. Stanford likes to pound the ball with Toby Gerhart, who is averaging 124 rushing yards per game. He sprained an ankle against Arizona last week but should play. The key might be how well Arizona State defends the pass against Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck, who has thrown for 1,589 yards and nine touchdowns in seven games. Arizona State’s offense was better against Washington than it has been all season, which gives the club cautious optimism, and Stanford has lost two straight games since beginning the year 4-1. But even with all the positives coming from the win over Washington, it still took a 50-yard touchdown pass in the waning seconds against blown coverage for ASU to grab the victory. Either ASU will prove it has turned the corner, or this game will show that the team’s ceiling is just not that high this year.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
• Toby Gerhart against the ASU run defense: The Sun Devils have not let a running back gain 100 yards or more against them this season, yet Gerhart comes in averaging 124 yards per game. Arizona State’s front seven on defense is the strength of this team, and if they can shut down Gerhart early, the Cardinal could have a tough time moving the ball. But if Gerhart gets rolling and Arizona State is forced to move up extra defenders to stop the run, it opens up a bevy of offensive options for Stanford.
• The play-calling: The offensive playbook was opened up against Washington, as the Sun Devils used a variety of different looks to keep the Huskies off-balance. It seemed to work, as Arizona State’s offense ran as smoothly as it had all season. Will new wrinkles be added, or will coach Dennis Erickson go back in a more conservative direction?
• Jamal Miles: The true freshman out of Peoria High saw his first collegiate action last week against Washington and immediately impressed. Miles was moved from running back to wide receiver early in the fall and progressed enough for Erickson to give him a shot. Miles could be used on kickoffs, punt returns, wide receivers bubble screens and end arounds in this game, anything to get his hands on the ball.