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Saturday, Sept. 21 | 7 p.m. ET | FOX
Kickoff time for the Pac-12's best game of Week 4 is fitting for a number of reasons, among them that Stanford is the quintessential test for measuring just how ready Arizona State is for prime time.
Obviously, much has changed for both programs in the time since ASU last visited The Farm. Stanford was just laying the foundation for what has become a gold standard in program building. Since, the Cardinal have appeared in three consecutive BCS bowls, and won last year's Pac-12 championship.
Sun Devil head coach Todd Graham has stated repeatedly that his goal is winning the conference title. Knocking off the reigning champion on its home turf is certainly a start.
The Cardinal and Sun Devils boast some of the conference's most celebrated individual defensive talents—ASU with defensive tackle Will Sutton and linebacker Carl Bradford, Stanford with linebackers Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy, and safety Ed Reynolds.
As talent laden as each defense is, both offenses feature enough playmakers to force tempo. Establishing Marion Grice against the Stanford is essentially for the Sun Devil offense, but only feasible if blockers can maintain their assignments.
As the always insightful Chris Brown broke down following Stanford's defeat of Oregon last season, the strength of the Cardinal defense is each individual players in the front seven's ability to shed blockers at the line. Unless Grice and cohort D.J. Foster can make sizable gains, Taylor Kelly will be forced to throw against a secondary that was particularly adept at exploiting mistakes.
On the opposite side, Arizona State struggled somewhat with the rush in its win over Wisconsin.
Stanford lacks the same diversity in its backfield that Wisconsin boasts in its, but Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson should see a considerable workload initially to set up Kevin Hogan and Ty Montgomery for the potential game breaking, big play.
Arizona State is close to the top tier of the conference, but Stanford remains at its pinnacle.
My Prediction: Stanford 31, Arizona State 21