Half of the Pac-12 still finds themselves in the Top-25, but the only game featuring two of those teams on the same field this weekend is a rematch of last year’s Pac-12 Championship Game. In this week 8 preview, (23) Stanford is coming off a Friday night win against Washington State last week, while (17)Arizona State had a bye week following their Hail Mary victory over Southern California.
Last year, the Cardinal and Sun Devils played each other twice. Arizona State traveled to Palo Alto and lost 42-28 early in the year. That ended up being their only regular-season conference loss of the season. Stanford had to make a trip to Tempe for the 2013 Pac-12 Championship Game after dropping games to Utah and USC during the regular season. The road trip didn’t affect Stanford at all, as they went into Sun Devil Stadium and dominated the game from start to finish on there way to a Pac-12 championship and Rose Bowl bid with a 38-14 win.
Stanford has taken the last four meetings from ASU dating back to 2008. It was also the last time the Pac-12 Championship Game was not played on a neutral field.
The Sun Devils are looking to get some redemption from last year’s losses, but will likely be doing so without their starting quarterback. Taylor Kelly continues to recover from a foot injury he suffered against Colorado. The senior returned to practice last week, but has still been limited. It would seem that Mike Bercovici will get the start. The redshirt junior has filled in nicely the last two games, putting up just under 1,000 yards in the games against the L.A. schools (Southern Cal and UCLA).
Whoever is playing at the quarterback position for the Sun Devils has one of the most talented wide receivers in the country in Jaelen Strong. Most people have not heard of him before his Hail Mary catch against Southern Cal, but Strong ranks fourth in the country with 122.8 receiving yards-per-game.
At running back, D.J. Foster is averaging 110.6 yards per game on the ground. Stanford’s defense ranks first in the country in scoring defense, allowing ten points per game. The Cardinal are also second in total defense, so it’ll be tough sledding for the Sun Devil offense.
Stanford’s offense has been somewhat of a conundrum so far this year, only going above 20 points in three of its six games. Against an Arizona State defense that is still somewhat inexperienced, the Cardinal should be able to go above that 20 point mark, and will probably have to considering how explosive the Sun Devil offense can be.
Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan is talked about a lot, but hasn’t really proven much at the quarterback position this season. His best receiver is Ty Montgomery. Montgomery can effortlessly run over defenders with ease when given the chance. Expect to see a lot of him against this ASU defense.
In the running game, a couple of Cardinal split the carries, and one name is very familiar. Barry Sanders Jr., son of NFL great Barry Sanders, has the best yards-per-attempt of the three running backs, averaging 7.6 yards on his 31 carries so far this year. Remound Wright will get the majority of the carries and Hogan will have his opportunities to run as well. This game is huge in the Pac-12 landscape, as both teams enter 2-1 in conference play.
Getting to 3-1 this year gives you a big leg up on the competition. With how Stanford’s offense has looked for the most part this season, the defense will have to come up big against the Sun Devils’ offense.
I see the Cardinal getting out of Tempe with a close, hard-fought win, and continuing the trend of road teams winning Pac-12 games. The player of the game will be Ty Montgomery, as he runs over the Sun Devils’ secondary to get one of the game’s few touchdowns.
When: Saturday October 18, 2014
Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ
Time: 10:30 EST on ESPN
Spread: Stanford -3.5 (BETOnline.ag)
*Section Photo credit to Ezra Shaw, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Stephen Lam, Getty Images