Right now, the PAC 12 is crazy. It's hard to predict which team will win any given game let alone establish a clear favorite to win the division much less the conference. While there are no guarantees in PAC 12 football, if Stanford can establish these 5 keys they should be in prime position to win Saturday night at Arizona State.
Will Hogan Go Mobile?
Hogan has no doubt struggled this year failing to make throws and staring down receivers. Last week against Washington State, however, Hogan was much more mobile finding tremendous success while throwing on the run. Hopefully Coach Shaw keeps this trend going.
Which Running Back Will Breakout?
The Stanford running game has stalled for most of the season. The offense has been content rotating carries amongst several backs but failing to establish a clear starter. Against the Cougs, however, Barry Sanders in the first half and Remound Wright in the second established themselves as reliable rushers. The running game was huge in opening up the pass, and keeping the Air Raid offense off the field. It will be interesting to see if one of these two rushers can have a breakout game and establish themselves as the primary rusher, or if it will be back to the drawing board for the Stanford ground attack.
New Receiving Targets
We found out earlier in the week that Wide Receiver Devon Cajuste will not play and tight end Austin Hooper is also questionable. Last week, however, Kevin Hogan spread the ball around to 12 different receivers. This is a great improvement from Hogan's previous attempts to force the ball to Ty Montgomery as often as possible. Ty Montgomery had 7 receptions last week. Cajuste had 2 receptions, Hooper had one and the other 9 had only one or two each. Even with the injuries to Cajuste and Hooper, if Hogan can keep spreading the ball around the passing game should do just fine.
Cleaning Up Mistakes
The Stanford offense had a great game against the Cougs, but they also left quite a few points on the board due to penalties and missed opportunities in the Red Zone. While last week was certainly a cleaner game from the Cardinal this season, mistakes are how talented teams can lose games they have no business losing. Hopefully the Stanford offense, and the kicking game continue to improve and reduce errors.
The Defensive Front
There really is not much suspense here, Stanford has the best defensive front seven in the country and there is not much doubt that they will continue to be impressive. What can the Arizona State offense do to avoid the pressure? Plenty of teams have tried quick passes, extra blockers, slants, all manner of screens and establishing a running game but none have succeeded in slowing down the Stanford rush. Enjoy the domination, but pity the quarterback.