The first meeting between two ranked Pac-12 opponents takes place Saturday night as the No. 5 Stanford Cardinal host the No. 23 Arizona State Sun Devils at Stanford Stadium.
The match-up marks the first meeting for the conference foes in three years, when Stanford defeated Arizona State in Tempe in 2010. The Sun Devils haven’t defeated Stanford on the road since 2007. They followed up that victory with another at home the following year.
The Cardinal are one of several top teams marching towards the national title, and a loss would certainly derail those efforts. The trio of quarterback Kevin Hogan, running back Tyler Gaffney, and receiver Ty Montgomery represent a formidable front capable of pushing the team over the top.
After two games, Gaffney has 236 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and Hogan has tossed five touchdowns, while completing 62 percent of his passes for 395 yards. Montgomery also has 10 catches for 211 yards and two scores.
That balanced offense complements a defense that has surrendered two touchdowns in as many games. To start the season, senior linebacker Shayne Skov and his unit allowed 35 rushing yards to San Jose State, then largely contained rush-only Army for a 34-20 victory last week.
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With momentum after a huge 32-30 win over then-No. 20 Wisconsin, the Sun Devils represent a huge threat to Stanford’s defense.
Quarterback Taylor Kelly has thrown five touchdown passes, and senior tailback Marion Grice has gained 143 yards and five scores on 36 attempts. Most of Grice’s success came against the Badgers with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
The Sun Devils were able to hold off the Badgers despite a fumble in the end zone that Wisconsin recovered for a touchdown, and an interception from Kelly at the Wisconsin nine-yard line. Arizona State also escaped after a controversial late spotting by the officials in the final moments of the game that prevented the Badgers from kicking a potentially game-winning field goal.
Arizona State head coach Todd Graham believes his team is developing the identity to succeed.
"(Stanford) knows (its) identity," said Graham, according to Stats LLC. "So did the team last week, they understood their identity. That's what championship teams have, an identity. I think our team is starting to get that."
The game kicks off at 7 p.m. ET and will be broadcast by FOX.
Betting Odds: Stanford favored by 7.5 points.
Over/Under: 50.5 points
Prediction: Stanford 30, Arizona State 24