The Arizona Sun Devils have embodied the DC Comic villain Two-Face, fielding an entirely different squad when they are home (3-0) vs. away (0-3). Or have they? Despite the record, is this team so different on the road or at home? And what does this all mean for a Stanford Cardinal team headed to Frank Kush Field?
On the road, the Sun Devils have averaged 20.7 points per game, posting a 39 point average at home. The defense too looks worlds apart, allowing just 14.7 points at home and 27.7 on the road. But the numbers can be deceiving.
”Colton! Get your head out of your butt! This team has just played better talent on the road and mostly cream puffs at home!”
Some of that is true, they have played some raggedy teams at home, significantly impacting the drastic point swing. But melting the record down to one aspect of the Arizona State schedule is also a misstep. With a closer look at the Sun Devils, it is revealed how good this has played in 2018 under new head coach Herm Edwards. This is more than a team that has beat up bad teams at home.
The Sun Devils have played three ranked programs: the Michigan State Spartans, Washington Huskies and Colorado Buffaloes. They beat Michigan State by three and lost to the other two by seven points in each game. Their three games against such opponents ties for the most contests against ranked opponents in the PAC-12. Arizona State has proven themselves against top-level talent, going toe to toe with great teams and never suffering a blowout.
The Huskies defense gave Auburn fits, the Spartans upset Penn State, and both struggled against ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins. Wilkins has thrown for 702 yards against ranked opponents, churning up yards despite the talent lined up across from him. Wilkins passed for 340 yards against a Spartans defense that allows 286.3 passing yards on average while posting 222 against Colorado, a team that allows 214.7 on average.
Against Washington and Colorado, two units that allow 20 or fewer points per game on average, the Sun Devils scored 21 points in tight contests. In the trenches, Eno Benjamin has proven himself as the bell cow back, averaging 119.2 yards per game and 1.5 total scores. The Sun Devils boast not only a consistent attack that stout defenses have failed to put away, but also a balanced attack.
But it is not just the offense that has been impressive against their superior competition, as the defense has been the most remarkable aspect of the new look Arizona State. Last season, Arizona State allowed 31.3 points per game and ranked 88th in points yielded.
This season, they have held all three of their ranked opponents to under their season average of points, despite holding the 72nd spot in yardage surrendered. The bend, don’t break mentality for the defense has worked this season, giving up plenty between the 20s but standing tall in the red zone. In 2018, they have given up just 21.2 points per game, practically 10 points less then last season.
The Cardinal are entering this game beaten and abused. Two awful quarters against the Oregon Ducks and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, compounded with a poor return home against the Utah Utes, have forced their problems to the surface.
Stanford averages 3.1 yards per rushing attempt, ranking them 127th in the country. Their defense is ranked 64th, giving up over 250 passing yards and 150 rushing yards each outing on average, and over the last three games, they have allowed an average of 36.3 points.
It has been a total departure of everything Stanford has made a staple over the past decade plus, struggling to win in the trenches and playing inconsistently from quarter to quarter.
Now, they take on a team that is not only superb at home, but balanced and in possesses of an actual defense. Unless the Cardinal unleash the version of Bryce Love that ran for 301 yards and three scores, they are in big trouble clashing with a confident Arizona State squad.
Prediction: Arizona State wins 26-17