The Arizona State Sun Devils passed their first major test of the season with a weird finish against the Wisconsin Badgers. They won’t get any time to process that win, however, as the level of competition gets cranked up another notch this week with their trip to Palo Alto to take on the defending Pac 12 Champion Stanford Cardinal. If ASU hopes to come out on top at The Farm, Marion Grice will need to have a huge game.
Against Wisconsin, Grice was a touchdown scoring machine, punching the ball in four times on the ground as he racked up 84 yards on 22 carries. He also caught five passes for 50 yards out of the backfield and was a matchup nightmare for the Badgers’ defense. When they loaded up the box to stop the run, Grice would run away from linebackers in pass coverage to make a big gain through the air. When they sat back in coverage, Grice sliced them up for chunks of yards on the ground that often found pay-dirt.
He will have to be even better if the Sun Devils hope to crack the physical front seven of Stanford. There are few groups with the talent, strength and experience that the Cardinal have in their defensive front, so having an X-factor like Grice may be Arizona State’s best shot at pulling off the upset on the road. Stanford’s linebackers are big and strong and get after the quarterback as well as just about anybody. But can they cover a shifty back like Grice in pass coverage?
That will be where Grice gets a chance to break this game open for the Sun Devils. He has too much speed for most linebackers to stay with him in space when he becomes a receiver, so will Stanford try and use more zone coverage to account for him and allow Taylor Kelly to throw into open windows? Or will David Shaw perhaps pull a linebacker off the field and use an extra corner to come up on Grice? That would allow Stanford to play man coverage but might take away from their pass rush and make them less effective against the run.
The Cardinal will have to have a plan to handle Grice on Saturday or his athleticism could tear them to pieces en route to a major upset. Does Grice have what it takes to carry ASU over the top on the Farm this Saturday?