Game of the Week: No. 5 Stanford vs. No. 23 Arizona State

Story posted September 19, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Aaron Carr

Each week ComRadio staff writer Aaron Carr will highlight a matchup in college football that he considers to be the “Game of the Week.” If you’re going to enjoy some college football action then this is the ONE contest that you do not want to miss. Carr’s “Game of the Week” selection for Week 4 of the college football season comes to you live from Stanford, California, where a pair of ranked Pac-12 foes will battle inside Stanford Stadium.

The Game: No. 5 Stanford vs. No. 23 Arizona State

If you haven’t already done so, you’re probably not going to be able to grab a seat on the David Shaw bandwagon. Let’s face it, tickets to get on that bus are selling out faster than Penn State men’s hockey. In Shaw’s two full seasons at Stanford he’s done everything the program has asked and more. His list of accomplishments reads like that of a future Hall of Famer: Pac-12 Coach of the Year (he’s already won it twice), 2012 Pac-12 Championship, back-to-back BCS appearances and a Rose Bowl victory last season.

Even more impressive about Stanford’s 2012 season was the fact that Shaw’s squad accomplished that magical run without no. 12, you know, the guy currently leading 4th quarter comebacks in Indianapolis like it was his job (okay technically it is his job).

When I look at the 2013 Stanford Cardinal I see a mirror image of Shaw’s 2012 conference championship-winning team. Junior quarterback Kevin Hogan is back under center for the Cardinal and through two games this season has put up 395 yards and five TDs, both of which are well ahead of his pace from last year. Shaw, widely considered to be one of the game’s brightest offensive minds, might be ready to unleash Hogan on the Pac-12 and actually see what the kid from Mclean, Virginia, is all about. Last year Hogan only had 152 pass attempts, and in a Pac-12 featuring a hand full of ranked teams, that number simply won’t be enough.

Someone who does appear ready to leave his supporting role in favor of the offensive spotlight is senior running back Tyler Gaffney, whose averaged 20 carries per game in the early season. Shaw’s offenses are built around the run game and Gaffney (236 yards, 3 TDs) has played the part of the workhorse thus far.

Panning back up the article you’ll notice where I mentioned that the Pac-12 Conference currently features a handful of ranked teams. Readers will quickly point to the #2 Oregon Ducks, ho-hum, 61 points per game, #5 Stanford, see Shaw, David, #13 UCLA, who is coming off of a huge win over Nebraska and #17 Washington, the team that closed the door early on Boise State’s BCS dreams. Math majors reading this column will be quick to say, “hey Aaron, that’s only four ranked teams you listed my friend.” Relax guys. The fifth Top 25 program in the Pac-12 is #23 Arizona State, not exactly a household name... yet.

College football fans who stayed up into the wee hours of Sunday morning bore witness to the Sun Devils suspenseful, and controversial, 32-30 upset win over #24 Wisconsin. How good is this Arizona State team? America is about to find out.

Junior quarterback Taylor Kelly enters his second season as the Sun Devils signal caller and is off to a fast start to the year with 652 passing yards and five touchdown passes. After topping 3,000 yards and throwing for 29 TDs a year ago, in head coach Todd Graham’s offense, Kelly figures to be the centerpiece of the offensive attack once again.

Senior running back Marion Grice will be charged with the task of taking some pressure off of Kelly, via the run game. The native of Houston, Texas, was the hero in Arizona State’s upset of Wisconsin last week as he ran for 84 yards and a whopping four touchdowns.

The ASU offense will have to carry its momentum from week-to-week, as Pac-12 schedule makers did the Sun Devils very little favors to begin the year. After it’s date with Stanford, ASU’s must play USC, #22 Notre Dame and #17 Washington in three of its next four games. College football is all about surviving and advancing. Survived, albeit barely, is exactly what the Sun Devils did last week. In order to advance up the polls, ASU needs to win, this time convincingly, over the defending conference champions on the road.

Players to Watch:

S Ed Reynolds, Stanford – The 6’2”, 205-pound senior is currently the leading tackler for the Cardinal after making 17 stops in two games, including 12 in the season opener against San Jose State. Reynolds also registered an interception in that game, adding to his “ball hawk” street cred. The Orange Park, Florida, native had six interceptions for the Cardinal defense a season ago, while flashing a talent for creating big plays. Of Reynolds’s six interceptions last season, he returned half of them for touchdowns. Did I also happen to mention that last season was his first year in a starting role? Reynolds is a bona fide emerging (perhaps even emerged) star if I’ve ever seen one and coupled with LB Shayne Skov, the Cardinal defense figures to give plenty of sleepless nights to Pac-12 offensive coordinators.

WR Jaelen Strong, Arizona State – Little was known of the first year starter coming into the season, but the Philadelphia native certainly turned some heads with his six-catch, 104 yard performance against Wisconsin. Strong, 6’4”, 205 pounds, has the physical frame to live up to his last name and has served as Kelly’s go-to target through two games. He’s caught six passes in each of ASU’s first two games so it appears he and Kelly have developed a nice rapport right out of the gate. His 17.3 yards per reception against Wisconsin is a number that can be maintained in this Arizona State offense that has talent at all the skill positions.

By the Numbers:

8 David Shaw defeated eight ranked teams in his two full seasons as head coach of the Cardinal.

5 Arizona State running back Marion Grice has five career games that he’s registered at least three total touchdowns. In his two years with the program, Grice has registered 189 offensive touches and scored TDs on 25 of them.

1997 The last year that Arizona State defeated ranked opponents in back-to-back games. First they toppled #25 Stanford, at Stanford, before besting #10 Washington State at Sun Devil Stadium.

Aaron Carr is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email adc5230@psu.edu.