Friday, November 12, 2010

Stanford-Arizona State Preview

The thought process on the upcoming game went from blasé to slightly concerned to blasé once again.

There are several reasons why the relatively informed observer would be blasé about the game: the team is 4-5, it features the regrettable Steven Threet at quarterback, it averages 3.9 yards/rush, and watching them play threatens to overwhelm with the stench of mediocrity hanging about the team, like a lingering fart. These are legitimate reasons to believe the game is easy.

But consider a few more facts, and you might be slightly concerned: on a yards/play basis, it’s 4th in the Pac-10 in offense and 5th in defense, which sounds a little better than perhaps you’d believe from the record; were they slightly more competent from the “kicking extra points” category, they’d have taken Wisconsin to overtime in Wisconsin; Vontaze Burfict, their crazed juggernaut of a middle linebacker, might just impale an unsuspecting opposing player with his bare hands. These are things to worry about.

Dig a little deeper, and you’ll see that there’s really not much to be concerned about. Their stats are skewed in that wonderfully classic way that college football teams are: those 54-9 and 41-20 buttwhippings of Portland State and Northern Arizona make those stats look a lot better. (They were able to score 30+ on USC, which is more legitimate but only slightly so. Their 31 points against Oregon represented Oregon’s worst game thus far and was only accomplished on 6 yards/play, accompanied by 7 turnovers—basically it’s a classic fast-paced team inflation going on.)

I’d argue that you should be slightly but not overly concerned: the reason this looks like a mediocre team is because it is a mediocre team, and while it’s not exactly outside the realm of possibility that a mediocre team at home beats a good one, it remains unlikely. Stanford should win, and fairly comfortably.

Stanford 34 Arizona State 20

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