Cardinal, Sun Devils face off in Pac-12 title game
Not long after Arizona State’s late rally fell short in an
early-season loss at Stanford, receiver Jaelen Strong said he hoped
the Sun Devils would get another chance at the Cardinal in the
He and the Sun Devils get their wish on Saturday night.
In a rematch of a September game filled with huge momentum
swings, No. 7 Stanford will face No. 11 Arizona State in the Pac-12
Championship with a spot in the Rose Bowl on the line.
”It’s a chance to redeem ourselves,” Arizona State defensive
tackle Will Sutton said.
Stanford won the initial game 42-28 by racing out to a 29-0
halftime lead and holding on as the hard-charging Sun Devils scored
three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
The teams took divergent paths to the conference title game from
Arizona State (10-2, 8-1) lost to Notre Dame two weeks later,
but has been on a roll the past two months, winning seven straight
games, their longest streak since opening the 2007 season with
eight straight wins. The Sun Devils have pulled out some big wins
along the way, including a victory at UCLA to clinch the Pac-12
South and a home victory over rival Arizona that gave them
home-field advantage for Saturday’s game.
Stanford (10-2, 7-2) had a disappointing road loss to unranked
Utah to lose control of the Pac-12 North, regained with a victory
over Oregon, then lost it again with a loss to Southern California.
The Cardinal clinched the division for good when they beat rival
California and the Ducks lost to Arizona on the same weekend.
The roller coaster over, Stanford has a chance to get back to
the Rose Bowl, where it won for the first time in 41 years last
”We have to treat it as a new team, a new guy,” Stanford coach
David Shaw said. ”We’re a little different than we were earlier in
the season. We’ve been through a lot more, positive and negative,
so this is just a new game and we’re excited to be in it.”
Here are five things to look for when the Cardinal meet the Sun
Devils in the Pac-12 Championship game:
HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE: The Pac-12 spent the days leading up to
the game trying to make Sun Devil Stadium look like a neutral site,
changing out the signs around the stadium and painting the field
with the conference logo. No matter what the conference does, there
will be little doubt where the teams are playing Saturday night.
Arizona State fans have sometimes been blase about supporting the
Sun Devils, but came out in force for last weekend’s rivalry game
against Arizona and another big crowd is expected. Arizona State
was undefeated at home (7-0) this season for the first time since
PACE IS THE WORD: Arizona State likes to play fast, often
snapping the ball as soon as the officials play it on the turf.
Stanford is more of a grinding team, relying on its power running
game for ball control. The Cardinal were able to win the tempo game
early in the first meeting while building the big lead, but the Sun
Devils were able to get game more to their liking while they were
racking up points in the fourth quarter. Whichever team gets the
pace it wants will likely be headed to the Rose Bowl.
NO GRICE: Arizona State is expected to be without leading rusher
and scorer Marion Grice for the second straight game with a leg
injury suffered in the victory over UCLA two weeks ago. The Sun
Devils managed just fine without him last week against Arizona,
running for 204 yards and four touchdowns. D.J. Foster carried the
biggest load with Grice on crutches, running for 124 yards and a
pair of touchdowns on 23 carries.
BIG-GAME CARDINAL: Before this season, Arizona State often had
trouble with the big games, falling short when the spotlight was
on. That’s been no problem for Stanford. The Cardinal have won
their past nine games against Top-25 teams, including the Pac-12
title game and Rose Bowl last season. Stanford is one of three FBS
teams – with Alabama and Oregon – to win at least 10 games each of
the past four seasons. The Sun Devils have been much better in the
big games this season, but the spotlight is nothing new to the
FORCING TURNOVERS: Arizona State has had an opportunistic
defense this season, converting 23 of its Pac-12-high 30 turnovers
into points, including 17 touchdowns – five on interception
returns. The Sun Devils are ninth nationally with a turnover margin
of plus-1.1 per game and have outscored opponents 136-52 in points
off turnovers. Stanford has 17 turnovers on the season – eight
fumbles and nine interceptions.