Despite recording two conference losses in 2013, Stanford has done everything it has needed to do in order to get back to the Pac-12 Championship Game where it will take on the Arizona State Sun Devils in a rematch from earlier this season.
Last time these two teams squared off, the Cardinal dominated in every phase of the game. The 42-28 final score does not quite indicate just how far out of hand the game was in the first half. In fact, Stanford took a 29-0 lead into the break.
However, the Sun Devils have now won seven straight games, and their only other loss came in the form of a 37-34 heartbreaker to Notre Dame.
Stanford has a big challenge ahead of it on defense. Arizona State has no shortage of offensive weapons, starting under center with dual-threat quarterback Taylor Kelly. The Cardinal has dominated on defense this season, but all-purpose back Marion Grice and big wide receiver Jaelen Strong are capable of doing some serious damage.
David Shaw and defensive coordinator Derek Mason will likely employ an aggressive game plan on defense, as the Sun Devils are near the bottom of the national standings having allowed 32 sacks so far this season.
The Cardinal may face an even tougher test on offense. Arizona State’s defensive line is one of the best in the country, led by Will Sutton, Davon Coleman, and Carl Bradford. This front seven has only allowed 133 yards on the ground per game this season, so Stanford may have to rely on Kevin Hogan’s arm more than usual if Tyler Gaffney can’t get going early.
While Arizona State’s secondary is still quite strong, it is a bit more porous than the front seven. It is an absolute necessity for Hogan to establish a connection with Ty Montgomery and Devin Cajuste on the outside in order to keep Stanford’s offense two-dimensional.
This game promises to be an exceptional matchup, and Arizona State will be hungry for revenge after being dominated by the Cardinal earlier this year.
The game kicks off at 4:45 p.m. Pacific, so be sure to tune in to this great conference championship showdown.