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  • Breaking down Arizona State football's 2017 schedule

    Breaking down Arizona State football’s 2017 schedule

Arizona State on Saturday will play its first Pac-12 road game at Stanford. The stat to remember here: The Sun Devils have lost their past eight conference road games, seven by double digits, a streak that dates to Oct. 3, 2015.

Stanford won’t be easy. The Cardinal (2-2, 1-1 in the Pac-12) opened the season No. 14 in USA TODAY’s Amway coaches poll. They since have slipped, falling to No. 5 USC and No. 21 San Diego State. At the same time, coach David Shaw’s group is coming off last week’s 58-34 thumping of UCLA.

Five things to know about Stanford:

1. It has a Heisman Trophy candidate. Bryce Love is a 5-10, 196-pound junior from Wake Forest, N.C. He’s the nation’s leading rusher, averaging 196.75 yards per game on a whopping 10.78 per carry. Last week, Love had 263 rushing yards against UCLA. Through four games, he has nine rushes of 30-plus yards, which is three more than any other back in the country. Over the past 20 years, only LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Northern Illinois’ Garrett Wolfe have rushed for more yards through four games. “He’s as good a back as you’re going to play against,” ASU coach Todd Graham said. “He reminds me of the kid from San Diego State (Rashaad Penny). A similar-type guy as far as, you better put population around him. You better not think somebody else has got him tackled because this guy is really, really good. If he breaks, he’s got big-time speed.”

2. What they do isn’t a mystery, but this season there’s a wrinkle. In 2015, Stanford ran on 65.7 percent of its total plays. Last season the Cardinal ran on 63.1. So far this season: 54. “They’re much more balanced,” Graham said. Even so, Stanford still ranks 16th nationally in rushing offense, averaging 259 yards per game. (The Cardinal’s 405 rushing yards last week against UCLA were fourth-most in program history). That’s impressive considering their 129 rushing attempts rank 89th.

3. The Cardinal have quarterback issues. Starter Keller Chryst left last week’s win over UCLA with an undisclosed injury. Backup Ryan Burns replaced Chryst but lasted just two ineffective series. Redshirt-freshman K.J. Costello took over from there and played well, completing 13 of 19 for 123 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for a touchdown. After last Saturday’s win, Shaw suggested that Stanford could play both Burns and Costello against ASU if Chyrst cannot go.

4. Their tight ends are big and dangerous. Senior Dalton Schutz (6-6, 243 pounds), sophomore Kaden Smith (6-5, 250), freshman Colby Parkinson (6-7, 229) and sophomore Scooter Harrington (6-5, 247) have combined for 21 catches for 229 yards and five touchdowns. “I think this is the best group of tight ends they’ve had since probably back in (2013), maybe back to (2012), when they had the guys that were drafted,” Graham said. “This group is long and tall. They can run seam routes. They’re deceptively fast. … They’re very capable.”

5. Their defense isn’t as strong. Traditionally, Stanford has won with strong defense. This season the Cardinal have struggled at times. In Week 2, USC rolled up 623 yards against them – the most ever against a Shaw-coached team – 307 coming on the ground. “We beat them at their own game,” USC safety Chris Hawkins told reporters. Overall, Stanford ranks 95th nationally in rushing defense, giving up 183.5 yards per game. Entering this season, the Cardinal had fielded a top-40 rushing defense in each of the past seven seasons. 

Contact Doug Haller at 602-444-4949 or at [email protected] Contact him at Twitter.com/DougHaller. Download and subscribe to the ASU Pick Six Podcast, available on iTunes.