Stanford-Arizona St. Preview
The Pac-12 title game matchup has been set for a week. Now so is
And that could be a major factor in the outcome.
No. 11 Arizona State (10-2, 8-1), whose only league loss came at
seventh-ranked Stanford (10-2, 7-2) on Sept. 21, will host the
defending champion Cardinal in the Pac-12 title game Saturday night
with a spot in the Rose Bowl at stake.
The Sun Devils sealed home-field advantage by routing rival
Arizona 58-21 in the regular-season finale. Arizona State is 7-0 at
home this season, and perhaps even more importantly, it avoids a
return trip to Stanford Stadium – where the Cardinal have won 16
”I can tell you this: Our guys are determined, and we need
everyone in these seats,” Sun Devils coach Todd Graham said. ”We
need to be loud and proud and make it a great home-field advantage.
Our guys want to win this and go to the Rose Bowl.”
The rematch figures to be quite different than the first
Stanford’s 42-28 victory in the Pac-12 opener for both teams was
mostly a one-sided affair. The Cardinal led 29-0 at halftime and
39-7 through three quarters before Taylor Kelly threw three
touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to give Stanford a brief
Both teams have been through quite a lot since then.
The Sun Devils routed a reeling Southern California team 62-41
the following week, which led to the firing of Trojans coach Lane
Kiffin, then lost 37-34 to Notre Dame in Arlington, Texas, before
rolling off seven straight victories – including a win at UCLA to
clinch the South Division crown.
Stanford regrouped from a stunning upset at Utah that dashed its
national championship hopes to beat previously undefeated Oregon.
The Cardinal lost control of the Pac-12 North title with a loss at
USC before getting it back when the Ducks dropped their game at
Arizona the next week.
None of that matters now.
The Sun Devils are going for their first Rose Bowl berth since
1997. And Stanford, which beat Wisconsin for its first Rose Bowl
victory in 41 years last season, is trying to book consecutive
trips to the ”Granddaddy of Them All” for the first time since
”We had ups and downs; we had bumps and bruises,” Stanford
coach David Shaw said. ”We lost some guys, had some guys step up.
We lost a couple games. But when you look up, we’re where we wanted
to be, a 10-win team in the Pac-12 championship game, and it’s
going to be a heck of a game.”
The Sun Devils will likely be without leading scorer and rusher
Marion Grice (injured leg) for the second straight week. The senior
running back watched the win over Arizona on crutches from the
sideline, and he is not expected to play against Stanford.
The Cardinal should be relatively healthy.
Defensive end and co-captain Ben Gardner has been out since
having season-ending surgery on his left chest muscle in late
October, and kicker Jordan Williamson’s range is limited because of
a leg injury. But Shaw said the Cardinal will get back defensive
end Josh Mauro, who sat out Stanford’s 27-20 win over Notre Dame on
Saturday night with a leg injury.
The bigger challenge for Stanford to overcome might be beating
the same opponent twice in the same season.
Last year, Stanford handled UCLA 35-17 in the regular-season
finale before a tough 27-24 victory over the Bruins six days later
for the conference championship. With so many games between
meetings this time, both teams have had nearly a season of lessons
learned, and now is the time to put them to use.
”It’s unbelievable. We’re anxious, but we know we have got a
lot of work still,” said Arizona State’s D.J. Foster, who ran for
124 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona in Grice’s place.
”There is still a big game coming up, so we can’t get ahead of
ourselves. We still have to work hard and prepare like we always
do. We just have to understand what we have in front of us and how
close we are to our goal. But we have to finish strong.”
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: