WHO: No. 7 Stanford (10-2, 7-2 Pac-12) at No. 11 Arizona State (10-2, 8-1)
WHAT: 2013 Pac-12 Championship Game (Winner wins trip to Rose Bowl and BCS berth)
WHEN: Saturday, December 7th. 5:45 MST kickoff (ESPN).
WHERE: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ
LAST TIME: Stanford 42, Arizona State 28 in Week 3 in Palo Alto, CA, and it wasn’t even that close. Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson combined for 150 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, and halt a great performance from Jaelen Strong (12 catches, 168 yards, touchdown). Stanford dominated the time of possession, (35:26 to 24.34), and were able to withstand a second half after being up 29-0 at halftime.
Tyler Gaffney, running back: It’s been a great year for Gaffney on the ground leading a run based Stanford offense that is predicated on the offensive and defensive lines. Gaffney finished the regular season with 1485 rushing yards (eighth in the nation) on 284 carries and and 17 touchdowns, including 87 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown in the Cardinal’s first matchup agains the Sun Devils. Gaffney is averaging 5.2 yards per carry, and last time out he ran wild for 189 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries.
Shayne Skov, linebacker: Skov is the leader for a talented Stanford linebacking core, and has a habit of stepping up for big games. Skov had his best performance of the season as Stanford hung on to win 31-28 over Washington after 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks from Skov, and he also was in on several stops and helped force a red zone fumble in the Cardinal’s 26-20 win over then-No. 3 Oregon. The senior linebacker had nine tackles and a sack in Stanford’s win over Arizona State earlier this year, and expect him to put up big numbers as they are set to meet again.
Trent Murphy, linebacker: While Skov may be the leader of the Cardinal defense, Trent Murphy is the playmaker on this defense. Murphy is currently sixth in the nation in tackles for loss (19.5) and has 13 sacks on the season. Murphy is no stranger to big plays, and even has a pick six on his resume from Stanford’s win over Washington State. He was held to two tackles in the matchup against Arizona State earlier this year, and it’ll be interesting to see how Murphy matches up against the Sun Devils’ under-appreciated offensive line.
X-FACTORS: Arizona State
D.J. Foster, running back: After being thrust into the starting role with Marion Grice’s injury, Foster “only” won the Territorial Cup MVP with a career-high 124 yards and two touchdowns on just 23 carries in Arizona State’s 58-21 win over Arizona. Foster was used primarily at wide receiver and a change-of-pace back up until Grice’s injury, and has 857 total yards and seven total touchdowns this season. The sophomore was key in the receiving game the last time these two teams met, as he caught eight passes for 80 yards in the 42-28 loss.
Jaelen Strong, wide receiver: The JuCo transfer is Arizona State’s leading receiver this year (69 catches, 1067 yards, seven touchdowns), and is the 24th leading receiver in the country (25th in receiving yards/game). The big play threat has seven 100+ yard receiving games, including a season high 168 yards and 12 catches to go with a touchdown in the last matchup between these two teams. Strong went through a small slump after suffering an injury against Washington, but has come on strong in recent weeks, with 339 yards, 17 catches, and two touchdowns in his last three games.
Carl Bradford, linebacker: Easily one of Arizona State’s most recognizable players, the junior linebacker has had a strong 2013. He is currently 18th in the nation with 16.0 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, and had seven tackles and a sack in the previous matchup against Stanford. If Bradford and Co. can force some negative plays, it creates opportunities for Arizona State’s opportunistic secondary.
18- 18 straight field goals for Arizona State’s freshman kicker Zane Gonzalez, an Arizona State record (previous- 17 by Thomas Weber in 2007). If the game comes down to three points, it seem that Todd Graham has a confident and consistent option to kick field goals.
8- Arizona State is eighth in the nation in scoring offense (43.3 points/game), including 49.1 points/game at Sun Devil Stadium. Arizona State is also 21st in the nation in total offense, with 473.3 yards/game.
12- Stanford is 12th in the nation in scoring defense (18.8 points/game), and has allowed 19.2 points/game on the road this season. Stanford is also 15th in total defense, holding opponents to 341.3 yards/game.
208.5- Stanford loves to run the ball, and are averaging 208.5 yards/game on the ground this season. The Cardinal are averaging 4.96 yards/carry as a team this season. Arizona State is 27th in the nation in allowing just 133.8 yards/game (3.83 yards/carry) so far this season.
Tyler Pollard (@tpollard3), Tucson Citizen: Arizona State 31, Stanford 28 – ASU plays well at home and they’re a different team since
the last time they played Stanford. They trail almost all game but come from behind at the end.
Tony Capobianco (@TonyCapobianco), Tucson Citizen: Arizona State 42, Stanford 24- According to ESPN’s lovable Lee Corso: the Arizona State Sun Devil offense is lead by Tyler Perry. Which means Stanford will have to deal with Medea on offense and a certain someone who looks like Medea on defense. Might be too much for the Cardinal.
Fabian Ardaya (@fardaya15), Tucson Citizen: Arizona State 35, Stanford 24- Arizona State has been a much better team at home this season, and Stanford has struggled outside of Palo Alto. The Sun Devils’ offense shines, but the difference will be Arizona State’s aggressive defense forcing Stanford into some third and long situations and forcing turnovers.