Making their first appearance in the Pac-12 championship game, the No. 11 Arizona State Sun Devils face the No. 7 Stanford Cardinal on Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium.
Now in its third year of inception, Stanford will make their second straight appearance in the title game, and look to repeat their 27-24 win over UCLA last season. Two tough road losses at USC and at Utah are the main reason the Cardinal are not likely to play in the national championship despite dethroning Oregon last month and a 14-point win over the Sun Devils back in September.
The Cardinal are the only Pac-12 team to defeat Arizona State this season, and the two clubs last met in 2010 with Stanford walking way with a 17-13 win in Tempe.
Arizona State’s eighth ranked offense has blitzed opponents with a seven game win streak, winning by an average margin of 22.8 points. But the Sun Devils will once again miss leading rusher Marion Grice to a leg injury. The senior is fourth in the Pac-12 with 996 yards and 14 touchdowns, but sat out last week’s 58-31 beat down of Arizona. That win shifted the conference title game to Tempe, helping the Sun Devils avoid a strip to Stanford.
Sophomore D.J. Foster stepped in for Grice and gained a career-high 124 yards and two touchdowns, but faces the Pac-12’s best rushing defense in Stanford. The Cardinal have only surrendered six rushing touchdowns and an average of 87.3 rushing yards per game this season.
Foster’s production will be key to whether Sun Devils junior quarterback Taylor Kelly can guide the squad to victory. Kelly’s thrown for 3,337 yards, with 27 touchdowns to 11 picks this season, and meets a Stanford pass rush that’s fourth in Pac-12 with 35 total sacks.
Resilient dual-threat quarterback Kevin Hogan will lead the Stanford offense. The junior bounced back from his two-interception performance against USC with a career-high five passing touchdowns against Cal, and posted a 136.5 passer rating in the close 27-20 win over Notre Dame the following week, despite tossing another two picks.
Hogan will face an equally impressive Arizona State pass rush. The Sun Devils are second in the conference with 36 sacks behind defensive end Davon Coleman and linebacker Carl Bradford, who’ve each tallied 7.5 sacks this season. However, the Stanford offensive line has let up just 11 sacks this season, the best mark in the Pac-12.
Aiding Hogan in the backfield is running Tyler Gaffney, who’s gained 1,485 yards and 17 touchdowns. Gaffney’s rushed for more than 100 yards in eight out of 12 games this season, including 189 yards and a touchdown against Notre Dame.
Betting Odds: Arizona State favored by 3 points
Over/Under: 56 points
Time: 7:45 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Where To Watch Online: Watch ESPN
Prediction: Arizona State 24, Stanford 20