The No. 11 Arizona State Sun Devils host the No. 7 Stanford Cardinal in the Pac-12 title game Saturday night with a trip to the Rose Bowl on the line.
The Cardinal and Sun Devils met in the Pac-12 opener for both back in September, when Stanford cruised to a 42-28 victory at home. The score was deceptive, as the Sun Devils scored 21 in the final quarter for pride purposes.
Stanford is no stranger to defeating a team twice en route to a BCS bowl. Last year, the Cardinal beat UCLA twice within a week—35-17 to close the season and then 27-24 to win the conference title.
However, Arizona State's 58-21 win over Arizona last Saturday means the Cardinal must make the trip to Tempe, Ariz., where the Sun Devils are 7-0 on the season. Stanford's two losses have both come away from Stanford Stadium.
Here is everything fans need to know about the Pac-12 Championship game.
When: Saturday, Dec. 7 at 7:45 p.m. ET
Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
Live Stream: ESPN3
Preparing to win a CHAMPIONSHIP! Sun Devil Nation, we need your help. Will you be there on Sat. night to help your Devils?— Todd Graham (@CoachGrahamASU) December 2, 2013
Todd Graham says Stanford is best-coached team they've played. Notes that Shaw doesn't get enuf credit for how innovative his run offense is— Ashley Adamson (@AdamsonAshley) December 3, 2013
Betting Lines (via Vegas Insider)
- Over/Under: 56
- Spread: Arizona State (-3)
Cardinal Injury Report (via USA Today)
|Alex Carter||CB||12/02/2013||is questionable for the Pac-12 Championship Saturday against Arizona State||Questionable||concussion|
|Josh Mauro||DE||12/03/2013||is questionable for the Pac-12 Championship Saturday against Arizona State||Questionable||undisclosed|
|Ben Gardner||DE||10/29/2013||will miss the remainder of the season||Out||torn pectoral muscle|
|Ikenna Nwafor||DT||09/20/2013||is out indefinitely||Out||undisclosed|
Sun Devils Injury Report (via USA Today)
|Marcus Ball||S||10/27/2013||will miss the remainder of the season||Out||shoulder|
|Chans Cox||LB||10/09/2013||will miss the remainder of the season||Out||shoulder|
|Marion Grice||RB||12/02/2013||is expected to miss the Pac-12 Championship Saturday against Stanford||Out||leg|
|Alani Latu||LB||08/29/2013||is expected to miss the entire season||Out||ankle|
|Viliami Moeakiola||S||12/01/2013||is questionable for the Pac-12 Championship Saturday against Stanford||Questionable||knee|
|Nduka (Junior) Onyeali||DE||08/29/2013||is expected to miss the entire season||Out||shoulder|
|Demarious Randell||S||08/18/2013||is out indefinitely||Out||groin|
Can the Sun Devils Stunt Stanford's Balanced Attack?
Much has changed since Stanford's win over Arizona State to kick off conference play this season, but the fundamental aspects have not.
The Cardinal still rely on a balanced offensive approach. A steady dose of senior running back Tyler Gaffney (1,485 yards, 17 touchdowns) allows junior quarterback Kevin Hogan to be effective through the air with 2,210 yards, 19 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 61 percent completion average.
Against Arizona State, Gaffney carried the ball 18 times for 87 yards and two scores. Hogan was effective with an 11-of-17 performance for 151 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
The Sun Devils can take solace in the fact that Stanford's attack is far from perfect—especially on the road. The key is to frustrate Hogan and limit his rushing production, where he has 290 yards and two scores this season. That is exactly what happened in Arizona State's two losses:
|Oct. 12 @ Utah||15/27||246||1||0||7||6|
|Nov. 19 @USC||14/25||127||0||2||4||18|
Led by defensive tackle Will Sutton, the Sun Devils have to make the Cardinal offense one-dimensional on Saturday.
The Sun Devils have an issue on offense as well. Star running back Marion Grice (996 yards, 14 touchdowns) will miss the game with a leg injury.
Which team wins?
That leaves it all on the arm of quarterback Taylor Kelly, who has completed 62.6 percent of his passes this season for 3,337 yards, and 27 touchdowns to go with 11 interceptions. Kelly will have to be effective in the face of a Stanford defense that surrenders an average of 19 points per game.
Kelly, however, is up to the task and Arizona State has a major edge at home. The formula to contain a traditional Stanford offense has already been written. Kelly and the Sun Devils have scored more than 50 points six times this season and have yet to be slowed down.
The Sun Devils will have learned from their past mistakes this season in jumping out to an early lead and never looking back to earn a Rose Bowl berth for the first time since 1997.
Final Score: Sun Devils 30, Cardinal 28