A game that seemed pretty critical to the College Football Playoff and Pac-12 title race has had some of the air let out. Stanford, a preseason darling and darkhorse to make a run at the CFP this year, has stumbled with a loss at Notre Dame and then a shocking defeat at Utah. Now, they still control their own destiny in the Pac-12 North, but it could once again be a somewhat disappointing year for David Shaw's crew in Pao Alto.

Now, the Cardinal must keep their focus for a primetime affair against Arizona State on Thursday night in Tempe. The big question will be whether or not all of the stars will be able to suit up, and that's something we won't know until closer to kickoff. 

Shaw said Monday that star running back Bryce Love is questionable for the game, noting that he was "not as hopeful" about him playing as he was the following week. Love missed Stanford's loss to Utah on Oct. 6 because of a left ankle injury, and without him in the lineup, the Cardinal will have to turn to Trevor Speights or Cameron Scarlett for the third straight game. 

Arizona State would prefer not to see Bryce Love on the field, considering Love ran for 301 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-24 Stanford win a year ago. 

Arizona State has its own offensive stars to show off in starting with quarterback Manny Wilkins and wide receiver K'Neal Harry, a pair that's been re-writing the passing and receiving record books throughout the season. Their connection has been a big reason why Arizona State has had one of the best red zone offenses in the country over the last two seasons. 

Viewing information

Date: Thursday, Oct. 18 | Time: 9 p.m. ET
Location: Sun Devil Stadium -- Tempe, Arizona
TV:
ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN

Storylines

Stanford: A weekend off after two straight losses was much needed for David Shaw's group. Utah brought the hammer down on the Cardinal in a way that made many experts readjust their expectations for 2018, even though this team is still right in the middle of the Pac-12 championship race. Stanford has the head-to-head advantage against Oregon and still has to play both Washington State and Washington in the next two weeks. It's possible that Stanford could go from unranked in the AP Top 25 to Pac-12 title favorite in less than a month, but it's got to start with a win on the road in a tough environment.

Arizona State: This is a turning point for Arizona State. After a week off, this game seems to be a hinge game for the Sun Devils, who haven't played a home game since rolling up on Oregon State on Sept. 29. With USC, Utah and a trip to Eugene to play Oregon left on the schedule, this Thursday night showdown has suddenly become a must-win game if Herm Edwards is going to make a bowl game. Expectations from the outside weren't terribly high coming into the season, but knocking off Michigan State and hanging with Washington gave fans reason to believe this group could finish the year in the postseason. Given what's left, the home field advantage of the Maroon Monsoon needs to be a factor so that Arizona State can pick up its fourth win of the season.

Game prediction, picks

Even if Love plays, the Stanford offense has not looked dominant running the football yet this season. I like the home team catching points in a must-win spot, concerned that the off week wasn't enough for the Cardinal to fix some of the offensive struggles that popped up in the last two games. Pick: Arizona State +2.5

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