Arizona State got a little bit of help last week against Wisconsin, but it survived and now has a chance to cement itself as one of the top teams in the Pac-12 against Stanford on Saturday night. No. 23 ranked Arizona State has to travel to No. 5 Stanford in what will be the toughest test of the year for the Sun Devils.
From an NFL Draft standpoint, this Pac-12 showdown has a bit more sizzle that any other game on the Week 4 college football schedule. It's not the most impressive slate of games, but that doesn't mean Arizona State and Stanford won't provide an interesting matchup, especially when it comes to the NFL talent on the field.
When Arizona State has the football
Stanford's defense is tougher than any Arizona State has played against this season. Senior running back Marion Grice is the star of Arizona State's offense. Against Wisconsin, he rushed 22 times for 84 yards and scored four touchdowns. Stanford will have an answer, though. Senior linebackers Shane Skov and Trent Murphy anchor the Cardinal defense and will have the challenge of slowing down Arizona State's rushing attack.
Through the air, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jaelen Strong presents the biggest threat for Arizona State. Taylor Kelly will look his way early and often.The big-bodied receiver had his coming out party against Wisconsin.
When Stanford has the football
For those who like battles in the trenches, this is the game for you. Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton is probably the best prospect playing in this game. He bulked up to 300 pounds over the offseason, and some have questioned his quickness early in the 2013 season. Sutton has his first measuring stick game of the season, though, with Stanford's David Yankey potentially lining up across from him on some plays. All in all, Stanford has one of the best offensive lines in the country, so Sutton will get to prove himself.
Meanwhile, pass rusher Carl Bradford could give the Stanford offense some trouble. He's a bit short at 6-feet-1-inch tall, but he has a ton of athleticism. Even though he functions mostly a pass rusher in Arizona State's defense, he plays the run well and excels at shedding blocks. Stanford redshirt sophomore quarterback Kevin Hogan may not have a ton of time to throw on Saturday night, depending on how his world class offensive line performs.
Question of the night
How will Stanford's offensive line contain the Arizona State front seven?
The strength of both teams is on the line of scrimmage, which is what makes this such an intriguing matchup for those of us that follow the NFL Draft closely. Stanford's offensive line is among the best in the nation, and Arizona State can penetrate the pocket from a number of different areas. How will the Cardinal respond if Sutton starts getting a ton of interior pressure? What if Bradford starts bending around the edge consistently? Those are things every team that plays the Sun Devils has to account for this season, and Stanford will certainly do just that.