The Pac 12 conference is one of the conferences that are fairly new to having a conference championship game. The Pac 12, along with the Big Ten, just added a conference title game several years back and both have been a huge success. This year the PAC 12 Championship game offers a rematch from earlier in the season.
Saturday night the number seven Stanford Cardinal face off against the number 11 Arizona State Sun Devils in Tempe to crown a PAC 12 champion. This is round two this year between these two and if the Sun Devils want things to go better this time around they will need to make some major adjustments.
In the first meeting between these two teams this year the Cardinal got out to a 29-0 lead. The Cardinal were having their way with both the pass and run game. Stanford’s defense was suffocating and shut down any rhythm or flow that the Sun Devils' offense tried to put together. The Cardinal would eventually win 42-28 and it took a late fourth quarter rally to make the score seem that close.
The Sun Devils were able to find success in the fourth quarter with their passing game to close the margin in half. I wouldn’t really read too much into that fourth quarter because of how the first three quarters went. It is just human nature to have a slight let down after building a 29-0 lead at home. This happens to every team at some point and time no matter how hard coaches try to preach about finishing all 60 minutes to their players.
This matchup on Saturday night will determine the PAC 12 champion and the winner earns a bid to the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl is well known as being the most prestigious bowl game in all of college football and I second that opinion whole heartily. Stanford were the PAC 12 representatives last year in the Rose Bowl and came out victorious over Big Ten champion Wisconsin in a thrilling game. This year Stanford looks to make back to back trips to Pasadena and keep their programs’ path on the upswing.
The Arizona State Sun Devils, on the other hand, haven’t been to the Rose Bowl since 1997. This decade and a half drought for Sun Devils’ fans and alumni has been painful, but a win on Saturday will end that hurt. Arizona State has the offense and defense capable of beating Stanford in Tempe, but will need to get off to a much better start.
The matchup to watch in this game is how the Arizona State offense decides to attack the Stanford defense. The Stanford defense relies mainly on their front seven and base everything they do defensively off of their success stopping the running game. I feel the way to attack and beat Stanford is to throw vertically down field 20 to 30 yards at a time. This loosens up the Stanford defense and exposes their weakest link in their defense, which is their secondary.
I would look for Arizona State to try and attack more down field this game unlike their meeting earlier in September. The Sun Devil offense is more than capable of putting up huge offensive numbers and I expect to see more of that this weekend. Arizona State Coach Todd Graham in just his second year with the Sun Devils has brought a new feeling to the program and a confidence that they can compete with any team. This has brought this team to a new level and you should expect to see them play with a new sense of confidence on Saturday compared to the meeting between these two in September.
The Stanford offense is built upon a heavy dose of the running game mixed with the play action pass. Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan and big play wide receiver Ty Montgomery are one of the most dangerous duos in the nation when they are on the same page. The running game has led to some big plays down field for Montgomery and this will be crucial in Saturday’s PAC 12 title game.
Montgomery is also very important in the special team’s game. His ability to return kickoffs has been game changers this season and if Arizona State isn’t careful he could break another one in the biggest game of the year. Montgomery, in my mind, is the key that helps keep the Stanford offense on track and not too reliant on just the run game.
My final feeling on this game is that I see the Stanford Cardinal finding a way to get the victory and earn a trip to a second straight Rose Bowl. The game in September has just stuck with me and the way the Stanford defense just man handled Arizona State’s offense is a concern for me. I understand these two teams are totally different as we sit here early December, but sometimes a team just knows how to defend an opponent. I feel that is part of the problem for the Sun Devils and we will see another win for the Cardinal on Saturday.
I see this game ending in favor of Stanford 31-24. I believe this game is lower scoring than the previous meeting, but the same result at the end of the day. Stanford wins the PAC 12 title and will once again represent the PAC 12 conference in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. The Cardinal have been an amazing story the past several of years and I just feel that continues at least another week.
The Cardinal reign supreme in the PAC 12 and prove to be once again one of the top teams in all of college football this season. The final real college football Saturday of the 2013 season is upon us and it is bitter sweet to say the least. This PAC 12 title game is just one that headlines a day full of great action throughout the nation. I believe the PAC 12 title game that we just took a look at will be one of the best games of the day and remind us once again why the PAC 12 plays some of the best college football in all of America.