Thursday Night College Football – Stanford at Arizona State
This week’s Thursday night game is a Pac-12 clash between Stanford and Arizona State. While the conference may have already played its way out of the national playoff hunt, both division races are still up for grabs and these teams are still viable contenders to play for the championship in December. Here is a look at the Thursday night game to start the next week of college football.
Match-up: Stanford Cardinal at Arizona State Sun Devils
Venue: At Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona
Time/TV: Thursday, October 18, 9:00 PM ET ESPN
Line: Stanford -2½, Over/Under 56
Last Meeting: 2017, at Stanford (-17) 34, Arizona State 24
Stanford was expected by many to be not just a Pac-12 contender but a serious threat to make a run at a spot in the College Football Playoffs. The season started out impressively with wins over San Diego State and USC, holding those respectable foes to a combined 13 points in home victories. Stanford then seemed to perhaps be a team of destiny with an improbable comeback to win in overtime at Oregon as well.
In a huge game at Notre Dame in a matchup of teams in the top 10 of the polls in late September the Cardinal were blown out with a 38-17 defeat. The next week playing without star running back Bryce Love Stanford fared just as poorly back at home with a 40-21 loss to Utah. Stanford is still 2-1 in Pac-12 play but has a difficult game remaining at Washington in a few weeks as another good but mildly disappointing season for David Shaw appears to be underway.
Last year Stanford won the Pac-12 North and lost a competitive Pac-12 Championship game with USC before losing in a tight Alamo Bowl against TCU. The 9-5 finish matched the most losses for Shaw since he took over in 2011 but the team had high hopes for 2018 with Love returning and K.J. Costello showing great promise after taking over at quarterback midway through the 2017 season.
Shaw has an impressive track record currently with a 77-24 record at Stanford halfway through his eighth season, going 51-15 in Pac-12 play while winning five division titles and three conference championships. Shaw has two Rose Bowl wins as well, but the Cardinal have lost at least two games in every season to never seriously threaten in the national picture and this year’s team will be no different already with two defeats.
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Last year’s team had the worst statistical defense that Shaw has fielded and the defense so far this season has struggled, allowing 400 yards per game despite only surrendering 22 points per game. Opponents have rushed for 164 yards per game against Stanford while Stanford has shockingly been one of the worst rushing offenses in the nation, averaging 86 yards per game on the ground with 3.1 yards per rush.
Love finished second in the Heisman voting last season with 2,118 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns and 8.1 yards per rush. He has missed two games this season and has barely average half of last season’s per carry average posting 4.3 yards per rush and only 327 total yards at this point in the season for a very disappointing senior campaign. He is a question mark this week with the lingering ankle injury.
Costello didn’t play the full season last year but he already has thrown more interceptions and taken more sacks in his six starts this season for Stanford. He has thrown for 12 touchdowns on nearly 8.9 yards per attempt and his completion rate is up by nearly four percent as the offense has been effective in the passing game with a massive receiving corps led by JJ Arcega-Whiteside.
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Herm Edwards was considered a curious hire at Arizona State after the departure of Todd Graham after six seasons. Graham was famously poached from Pittsburgh after just one season and was fairly successful for the Sun Devils making a bowl game in five of six years and winning the Pac-12 South in 2013. Edwards finished 20 games below .500 as a NFL head coach and had never been a head coach at the college level, actually only an assistant for three years as a position coach at San Jose State in the late ‘80s. He had also not been on the sidelines at all in a decade, emerging as a prominent TV personality on ESPN’s NFL coverage.
The Sun Devils made an early splash this season with a home upset of Michigan State but the Sun Devils are just 3-3 on the season including 1-2 in Pac-12 play. All three losses have come on the road and all were decided by just seven points for competitive games. The remaining schedule for Arizona State is difficult still with USC, Utah, and Oregon on the schedule with two of those three games on the road as this is a critical home date if the Sun Devils are to make a bowl game.
Manny Wilkins has been a productive quarterback for the Sun Devils with nearly 1,500 yards passing and 11 touchdowns with only one interception so far this season. Arizona State has also been one of the better rushing teams in the conference led by Eno Benjamin who has 715 rushing yards on 5.7 yards per carry, currently ninth nationally and second in the Pac-12 in rushing yards.
Arizona State has held foes to just 3.8 yards per rush this season while the pass defense has posted average results with numbers just slightly better than Stanford has posted, through a lesser overall schedule so far. The scoring defense numbers are also nearly identical for these teams and a close game should be expected under the lights in Thursday’s national TV game, coinciding with a Thursday night NFL game 22 miles northwest in Glendale.
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Last season: These teams met in late September last season with matching 2-2 records. Arizona State had just defeated Oregon to recover from narrow losses to San Diego State and Texas Tech. Stanford won its opener last season in Australia but then lost to USC and San Diego State in road games before blasting UCLA ahead of this game. It was a back-and-forth game early with the teams trading scores until halftime with a 24-17 edge for the Cardinal as a heavy favorite. Bryce Love broke a 59-yard run in the third quarter but it was a one-score game in the final minutes until a late Stanford field goal. Stanford had a 504-409 yardage edge and a 2-1 edge in turnovers. Love emerged as a serious Heisman threat with 301 yards and three touchdowns, eclipsing 1,000 yards for the season in just his fifth game.
Historical Trends: Arizona State has a 17-12 S/U edge since 1981 in this series with a 6-3 ATS mark since 2006, though Stanford has won S/U in five of the last six meetings. Arizona State won the last home meeting in 2014 as a home underdog 26-10, while going 11-4 S/U and 9-6 ATS in the home meetings of this series since 1982. The Sun Devils are on a 13-5 ATS run as a home underdog since 2009, winning outright in six of nine instances since 2016. Arizona State is 12-4 S/U and ATS overall at home since 2016. Stanford is 27-13 S/U and 22-17-1 ATS in road games under Shaw since 2011, going 16-13-1 ATS as a road favorite in that span. Since the start of last season Stanford is just 1-5-1 ATS in road games however.