- Last year, Bryce Love tore through Arizona State's defense for 301 yards on the ground. Is he healthy enough to singlehandedly sink the Sun Devils again this season?
Stanford (-2.5) at Arizona State
Thu. 10/18, 7:30 p.m. ET
Three things you need to know before betting on Stanford-Arizona State:
1. With both Stanford and Arizona State coming off a bye, it’s never a bad idea to try and back the better coach. Herm Edwards has impressed to a certain degree in his early ASU career, but David Shaw is indisputably a sharper coach at this point. Stanford has consistently been a top-tier team since Shaw took over for Jim Harbaugh, and that doesn’t change when the Cardinal are coming off a bye week. In Shaw’s eight seasons as Stanford’s coach, the team is 6-2 straight up when coming off a bye—which means a lot with a spread as low as this one. The Cardinal have also won and covered after each of their past two bye weeks. The extra rest was of particular importance to Stanford: Star running back Bryce Love had to miss the Cardinal’s game against Utah two weeks ago, but he's now had enough time to make sure he’ll be out there on Thursday. Also worth noting is the fact that Stanford is an impressive 7-0 against the spread since the start of last season when facing offenses that are averaging at least 5.9 yards per play on the season.
2. Stanford’s defense has struggled in recent weeks, allowing 36.3 points per game over the past three games. But it’s still important to note that the Cardinal have allowed just seven passing touchdowns on the season—which is only 1.2 touchdowns per game through the air. Going up against quarterback Manny Wilkins, who has thrown for 1,446 yards with 11 touchdowns and only one pick this season, Stanford defenders are going to be confident that they can keep the Sun Devils in check. They’ll need to pay some extra attention to star wideout N’Keal Harry, who might be the best receiver in the nation. And while the defense was gashed by the run in games against Oregon, Notre Dame and Utah, it’s extremely likely that most of the bye week was spent figuring out a way to keep Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin in check. The Sun Devils sophomore has rushed for a ridiculous 536 yards with six touchdowns over the past three games. But 312 of those yards came against Oregon State, which has the eighth-worst rushing defense in FBS.
3. There was a lot of love for Arizona State’s rush defense after a 16-13 win over Michigan State in the second week of the season, but the Sun Devils have fallen apart since then. Over the past four games, Arizona State has given up an average of 227.3 yards per game on the ground—only 13 teams in the country have a worse full-season average. Heading into a game against Love, one of the nation’s most explosive backs, the Sun Devils have to be a bit concerned. When these teams met last season, Love rushed for 301 yards and three touchdowns on only 25 carries. It’s highly unlikely he’ll repeat that performance this week, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he ran wild on Thursday.
Pick: Stanford -2.5
Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)