ASU senior quarterback Rudy Carpenter was fantastic in ASU’s 30-13 win against Northern Arizona last Saturday, completing 22 of 28 passes for 388 yards and a touchdown before sitting out the majority of the second half.
Carpenter currently ranks fifth among active players in the Football Bowl Subdivision in career passing yards and second in career touchdown passes.
Stanford senior Tavita Pritchard earned the starting nod at quarterback late in training camp and completed 10 of 17 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinal’s 36-28 win over Oregon State last week.
Pritchard started seven games for Stanford last season, including the Cardinal’s 24-23 upset of No. 2 USC on Oct. 6, 2007.
While Pritchard may have the single biggest win of the two quarterbacks, Carpenter has had much more overall success in his career.
ASU is still banged up at the position. Senior Keegan Herring and junior Shaun DeWitty are both questionable for Saturday’s game because of hamstring injuries.
The healthy Sun Devils in the backfield did not have much success against NAU, as Carpenter was their leading rusher with 40 yards on five carries.
Stanford got a career game from junior running back Toby Gerhart against OSU, as he rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns.
Sophomore fullback Owen Marecic started every game as a true freshman for the Cardinal last season and earned All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention honors.
The Sun Devils have the backfield advantage when the group is at full strength.
But ASU’s healthy options (juniors Dimitri Nance and Jarrell Woods) were not impressive against NAU and will need to be much more productive to beat a Pac-10 foe.
ASU’s receiving corps was touted as its most talented unit going into the season, and it showed why against NAU.
Senior Michael Jones had 162 yards on six catches, and sophomore Kerry Taylor had a career-best 93 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Junior Chris McGaha, who was the Sun Devils’ leading receiver last season, was also productive (four catches, 58 yards) while continuing to work his way back from a toe injury.
Senior tight end Andew Pettes also got in on the passing game in his first career start, catching two balls for 13 yards.
Stanford returns its leading receiver from the past two seasons in junior Richard Sherman, but its other receivers vying for starting positions are young.
Senior tight end Austin Gunder stepped into the starting role during the second half of last season and played well.
ASU’s receivers already seem to be in sync with Carpenter, and he will make sure they all get their chances to make plays against the Cardinal.
ASU’s highly-criticized offensive line did a good job of pass protecting against NAU, as the unit only allowed one sack and generally gave Carpenter adequate time to find his receivers downfield.
However, the line had trouble opening holes for ASU’s running backs. The Sun Devils rushed for just 94 yards in the game.
Stanford has a veteran offensive line, with three seniors and two juniors making up the starting group that gave up two sacks against Oregon State.
Senior center Alex Fletcher is one of the best offensive linemen in the Pac-10, while senior right tackle Chris Marinelli has started 15 games in a row for the Cardinal.
ASU’s offensive line took a step in the right direction against NAU, but Stanford’s group is more experienced in Pac-10 play.
ASU’s duo at defensive end got off to a nice start against NAU, as junior Dexter Davis had two sacks and senior Luis Vazquez recorded five tackles.
Senior defensive tackle David Smith also added three tackles, including two tackles for loss.
Stanford senior Pannel Egboh has made 25 consecutive starts at defensive end and led all Cardinal defensive lineman in tackles during both the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
The Sun Devils still need to see more production from the other tackle spot opposite Smith, but the unit as a whole is one of the better defensive lines in the conference.
ASU junior Mike Nixon led the team with eight tackles against NAU. Juniors Travis Goethel, Gerald Munns and Ryan McFoy as well as freshmen Brandon Magee and Shelly Lyons were all factors in the middle of the field too.
Stanford’s corps of linebackers is arguably the biggest strength of the Cardinal’s defense, as it returns every starter from a year ago.
Senior Clinton Snyder is the star of the unit that can make plays all over the field and put pressure on the quarterback. He is Stanford’s active leader in career tackles (181), sacks (10) and forced fumbles (eight).
Senior Pat Maynor had seven tackles and a sack against OSU, while sophomore Chike Amajoyi was one of the conference’s best freshmen last season.
ASU has a formidable rotation at linebacker that will continue to improve, but Stanford’s group is more versatile and a bigger factor in the pass rush.
ASU senior safety Troy Nolan and sophomore cornerback Omar Bolden will continue to be the playmakers in the Sun Devil secondary. Junior cornerback Pierre Singfield also played well in his first career start last week.
Senior safety Rodney Cox and sophomore safety Max Tabach led the secondary unit with five tackles each against NAU.
The Stanford secondary was very impressive against OSU last week.
Senior cornerback Wopamo Osaisai, named he Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week, recorded a career-high 11 tackles against the Beavers.
Senior safety Bo McNally led the Pac-10 in tackles last season (114) and returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown against OSU last week.
While Stanford returns more experience in the secondary, the Sun Devils have more impact players and depth.
Sophomore Thomas Weber, the reigning Groza Award winner, was his normal self against NAU, connecting on all three of his field goals from 34, 36 and 28 yards.
Weber also handled the punting duties and boomed one 60 yards in the second quarter.
Stanford senior kicker Aaron Zagory split the uprights on two of three field goal attempts against OSU.
ASU junior Kyle Williams is always a dangerous threat when returning punts and kickoffs, while Stanford sophomore Corey Gatewood had 108 yards on six kickoff returns last week.
Weber is already one of the biggest scoring threats in the nation, and his value will only grow if he continues to improve his punting.
Stanford has made it very clear that it is not the cupcake of the Pac-10 anymore, as the Cardinal showed by surprising Oregon State in the season opener.
But playing on the road in the Pac-10 is a totally different story.
ASU will have the benefit of the home crowd, as well as the high temperatures that still linger in Tempe after Labor Day.
Stanford could be the surprise of the Pac-10 this season and is definitely heading in the right direction under coach Jim Harbaugh, but the Cardinal still does not have enough talent to knock off ASU – especially at Sun Devil Stadium.
Overall Edge ASU
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