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Stanford has won for of the last five football games against Arizona State it’s played at home, with 75 percent of those wins coming by 13 points, on average. As the away team, however, Stanford is reasonably 2-3. The most recent loss at Sun Devil Stadium was in 2014, when ex-Sun Devils K Zane Gonzalez made four field goals, ending up with the most points scored by an Arizona State player. In fact, that win gave the Sun Devils a pseudo-comfortable series lead, 17-14.

Since then, both teams have been completely renovated. Quarterback Manny Wilkins (1,446 yards, 11 touchdowns, one interception) replaces Mike Bercovici from the 2014 match-up, in addition to RB Eno Benjamin (vs. Oregon State: 30 carries, 312 yards, 4 touchdowns) over D.J. Foster and WR N’Keal Harry (three games of 80-plus yards) over Jaelen Strong. Most notably, the Arizona State offense has coughed up the ball only twice. Though the Stanford defense will have its full plate, its offense will, as well.

Among the nation, Arizona State ranks 16th in tackles-for-loss (46) and 15th in sacks (18). Furthermore, those efforts are led by not just one play maker, but a half-dozen, like its trio of linebackers, Merlin Robertson (30 tackles, 4 tackles-for-loss, 3 sacks), Darien Butler (21 tackles, 4 tackles-for-loss) and Malik Lawal (15 tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss, 2.5 sacks). Last, but not least, there’s a secondary threat in DB Chase Lucas (20 tackles, 4 tackles-for-loss, interception, 2 passes defended). It’s not the most impressive defense, who surrendered 494 yards to Colorado and 440 to San Diego State, but it’s enough to starve Stanford.

Despite its 21-28 loss to the Buffs, Benjamin still rushed for more than 100 yards and two touchdowns. For Stanford, Love sat out in a Week 6 blowout by Utah, but in reality, Stanford’s run game has been non-existent in 2018. Until Week 8 arrives, all Stanford can do is study some All-22 film and mend the left side of the offensive line and its cornerbacks outside of Paulson Adebo.

RB Bryce Love

Stats vs. Arizona State: 11 carries, 21 yards

Player notes: Cameron Scarlett and Trevor Speights took over for a struggling Love, who has yet to fully recover from an ankle injury earlier on in the season. For Love, he didn’t have his trustworthy alliance in Nate Herbig, who missed Week 8 due to injury, further complicating Stanford’s woes on the offensive line. Depending on which factor one would like to blame for Love’s lackluster 2018 season, it’s a testimony to how vigilant he truly is as a teammate. Despite his loss of yards and short-yard gains against Arizona State, his performance in Week 8 was less about himself – something NFL scouts lose sight of when considering their draft picks – and more about the success of other Cardinal.

Game day grade: C-

Draft stock: Early second

Week 9 preview vs. Washington State: Forget about the Southern Cal, Oregon, Utah and Washington games – against Washington State is when Stanford needs him the most. Over the course of six different players, those Cougars boast 22.5 tackles for loss. Another five players account for 11.5 sacks. Needless to say, Washington State’s run defense has been sketchy as a whole, as they allowed 148 rush yards to Eastern Washington in Week 3.

TE Kaden Smith

Stats vs. Arizona State: N/A

Player notes: With Herbig out, Stanford needed an extra blocker in Smith. Despite that situation, Stanford still struggled on run plays, but found a voice through Costello – whether or not that involved Smith. Unsurprisingly, Costello relied on JJ Arcega-Whiteside, but Smith was left out of the equation, piling on zero targets. Late in the third quarter, Smith also achieved his first penalty of the season, which resulted in a 15-yard loss. It wouldn’t matter, given Scarlett’s end zone visit on the same drive, but it’s unlike Smith to be ill-disciplined.

Game day grade: D

Draft stock: Late fifth

Week 9 preview vs. Washington State: Each of five Cougars on defense has one interception. Washington State LB Jahad Woods might be assigned Smith, who’s having a standout season in recent history among Stanford tight ends. Then there’s always defensive backs Sean Harper and Skyler Thomas to keep an eye on Smith to keep his numbers down. Lastly, Washington State has three folks in the secondary that have combined for 11 passes defended.

OG Nate Herbig

Player notes: DNP

Game day grade: N/A

Draft stock: Mid-fourth

Week 9 preview vs. Washington State: After allowing a season-high 76 plays and 37 points to Oregon State in Week 6, Herbig may have to worry more about pass protection above all else. Cougars linebacker Peyton Pelluer, though, has been gaining momentum since Week 4, where he’s recorded double-digit-tackle games against Southern Cal, Utah and Oregon State.

MLB Bobby Okereke

Stats vs. Arizona State: 7 tackles, forced fumble

Player notes: It’s hard not to love Okereke’s style of play. He shut down the passing lanes of Manny Wilkins, who – up until Stanford – threw for only one interception; he also kept Eno Benjamin from breaking free in the gaps. In fact, Benjamin’s “largest” gain of the day was five yards, lending him only 38 yards at game’s end. Because of the stellar performance from Okereke and Co., Arizona State was held to only three points in the first-half. Along with Okereke’s forced fumble in the second quarter, the Cardinal defense bounced back from a Week 6 loss to have its best game.

Game day grade: B+

Draft stock: Late third

Week 9 preview vs. Washington State: QB Gardner Minshew is a bigger threat than James Williams. That said, Okereke’s priority is quite primitive – disrupt Minshew’s passing lane in any way possible. Minshew’s completing nearly 70 percent of his throws, including a 445-yard day against the Pac-12’s top defense in Utah.

CB Alijah Holder

Stats vs. Arizona State: 1 tackle

Player notes: Coming off a 131-yard game against Colorado, Arizona State WR Frank Darby had his work cut out for him against Holder in Week 8. Together, with Paulson Adebo, Holder didn’t let Darby blink. It’s not Holder’s best in terms of numbers, but all he really needed was a simple formula: loose hips and locked-on vision. Granted, Darby isn’t Wilkins’ go-to guy or even one of his top three, but he’s one of the fastest. Holder, who’s compatible with Darby in every sense of the word, managed to bully Darby into tight spots. There were all but a handful of opportunities for Darby to create space and first downs, but Holder’s football intelligence prevailed, making Darby finish with three receptions and 53 yards.

Game day grade: B

Draft stock: Early fifth

Week 9 preview vs. Washington State: As with Okereke’s situation, Holder will have his plate full with Minshew. He’s a very effective and efficient quarterback, who’s only tossed four interceptions to 19 touchdowns. Additionally, Washington State has five receivers with 20-plus receptions on the season (Dovantavean Martin leads with 40).

Sports Al Dente 2019

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