Stanford Football: 3 Keys to the Game vs. Arizona State

Kevin LeeCorrespondent ISeptember 21, 2013

Stanford Football: 3 Keys to the Game vs. Arizona State

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    The Stanford Cardinal (2-0, 0-0 Pac-12) face their first true test of the season as they take on the Arizona State Sun Devils (2-0, 0-0 Pac-12) at Stanford Stadium. Saturday's matchup will be the first time the two teams have met since 2010, when Stanford defeated ASU 17-13. The Sun Devils lead the all-time series, 11-16.

    Coming off of a 34-20 win over Army that most likely failed to impress many, the Cardinal are looking to prove a point by knocking off No. 23 Arizona State. On the other hand, ASU enters the game having defeated the Wisconsin Badgers 32-30 last week in controversial fashion.

    In a game where styles will clash, and speed will go up against strength, here are three keys to success for the Stanford Cardinal.

Get off on the Right Foot

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    Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

    There's no doubt that the Sun Devils present Stanford with its toughest test of the season thus far. Because of this, the Cardinal cannot afford to start off slowly, as they did against Army last week.

    In a game where Stanford was a significant favorite, Army was able to take a 6-0 lead after 12 minutes of play. This week, the Cardinal are seven-point favorites, via Vegas Insider. After facing two teams that they were expected to beat rather easily, Stanford must now be completely prepared for an Arizona State team that is looking for an upset.

    The Sun Devils have already had the opportunity to play a tough opponent in the Wisconsin Badgers. They were able to knock off the 20th-ranked Badgers last week and are surely up for the challenge against Stanford this week.

Overcome Injuries

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    Senior defensive end Henry Anderson suffered a knee injury against Army and will be sidelined for several weeks. Anderson played an integral role in Stanford's stout defense. Last season, he had a career game against Oregon (eight tackles, one sack) that helped Stanford win the Pac-12 title.

    Josh Mauro will be replacing Anderson. Mauro is coming off a strong performance against Army, in which he recorded seven tackles.

    Stanford's other injuries will test its depth. Linebacker Blake Martinez (out) and cornerback Barry Browning (out) will both miss the game against ASU.

Get the Running Game Going

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    Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

    Stanford is known for its power running game, and if it can establish the run early and dominate the line of scrimmage, the Sun Devils will have trouble containing the Cardinal. 

    Arizona State has shown some weakness defending the run. Against Wisconsin last week, ASU allowed 231 rushing yards and 7.2 yards per carry. If Stanford can replicate such a performance, the Cardinal's passing game will open up.

    Featuring one of the best offensive lines in the nation, David Shaw's squad should be able to find success against Arizona State's defensive line, which stars Will Sutton. It will be Tyler Gaffney's job to find the gaps and holes on Saturday and exploit them. Gaffney has 236 rushing yards this season and is averaging 5.9 yards per carry.

    The Cardinal have all the pieces they need to succeed against ASU. Now it's just a question of whether they limit their mistakes and execute well.