It takes a mentally strong team to defeat its biggest rival by 37 points and then hold back on the smiles. "This was great tonight, but it’s not the one we’re after," Arizona State coach Todd Graham said, echoing his players' sentiments, after his team dismantled Arizona last Saturday. "The one we’re after is next week." Graham, of course, is referring to Saturday's Pac-12 championship game in which the 13th-ranked Sun Devils will host No. 10 Stanford with the winner heading to the Rose Bowl.
"We had ups and downs; we had bumps and bruises," noted Stanford coach David Shaw, "but when you look up, we're where we wanted to be - a 10-win team in the Pac-12 championship game, and it's going to be a heck of a game." In order to reach their second straight Rose Bowl, the Cardinal must defeat the Sun Devils for the second time this season. Stanford edged visiting Arizona State, 42-28, back on Sept. 21 as Ty Montgomery scored two first-half touchdowns to help the Cardinal to a 29-0 halftime lead in a game that, at the time, certainly did not feel like a Pac-12 championship preview.
TV: 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Arizona State -3
ABOUT STANFORD (10-2, 7-2 Pac-12): The Cardinal boast an impressive resume that includes victories over Washington, UCLA, Oregon State, Oregon and Notre Dame, in addition to their earlier win against Arizona State. In last Saturday's 27-20 triumph over the Fighting Irish, Tyler Gaffney ran for 189 yards and a touchdown while Wayne Lyons had a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions to seal the win. Stanford ranks 13th in the country in points allowed (19 per game) and has yielded no more than 20 points in any of its last six contests.
ABOUT ARIZONA STATE (10-2, 8-1): The Sun Devils improved to 7-0 at home last week with a convincing 58-21 victory over Arizona, as they led 30-7 at the half and cruised despite the absence of leading rusher Marion Grice (leg). D.J. Foster led the way with 124 rushing yards and two touchdowns, helping Arizona State improve its scoring output for the fourth straight game (20, 30, 38 and 58). The Sun Devils may need a sharper performance out of Taylor Kelly (13-of-25, including an interception) if they are going to reach their first Rose Bowl since 1997.
1. Grice, who has 996 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, is doubtful to face the Cardinal.
2. Arizona State DT Will Sutton was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season on Tuesday, while Graham was honored as the Pac-12's Coach of the Year.
3. This is the second time this season that Stanford and Arizona State will meet while both ranked in the top 25. Prior to the 2013, that had never happened before in the all-time series, which the Sun Devils lead 16-12.
PREDICTION: Arizona State 34, Stanford 24