In the Pac-12 Championship Game on Saturday night, Arizona State football will face the same old Stanford offense that conference opponents have been struggling against for years.
This means ASU must focus on another Cardinal all-conference offensive line that loves to pound the rock, right?
Although the group is the model of efficiency, it has greatly benefited from an excellent defense filled with NFL prospects.
Stanford is still running with authority this season, averaging more yards rushing than passing per game (208 to 195 yards). However, it ranks 10th in the conference in total offense and fourth in rushing yards. Typically, this would lead to big plays in the passing game, but the Cardinal are only ahead of Arizona in passing (11th with 2,351 yards) and receiving (11th with 20 touchdowns).
Here’s a rundown of the Stanford offense by position:
Quarterback: Kevin Hogan has led his team to another Pac-12 North title by making smart decisions and allowing the most talented group to shine: the offensive line. Although not throwing for many yards (2,210) or TDs (19), Hogan does rank fourth in the conference in QB rating at 149.9.
Still, if ASU can force Stanford into passing situations, don’t expect to see the chains move very often. Hogan and Company is last in the conference in this category, having only thrown for 97 first downs (to ASU’s 124). Hogan has also been prone to throwing picks in tight games, accounting for two per game against USC and Notre Dame.
Running Back: Tyler Gaffney leads the Cardinal rushing attack behind a punishing offensive line, so look for a heavy dose of running plays in the conference championship game. Gaffney is third in the Pac-12 in rushing with 1,485 yards, but if he had as many carries as Ka’Deem Carey and Bishop Sankey, he might be the conference leader.
Gaffney is an excellent athlete who has drawn comparisons to former Stanford RB Toby Gerhart by head coach David Shaw.
RB Anthony Wilkerson was also a factor in the first ASU-Stanford match-up, helping the Cardinal run the ball 49 times for 240 yards on the Sun Devils.
Receiver: The biggest threat here is Ty Montgomery, who has caught nine touchdowns on the year and averages 16 yards per reception. On the other side of the field is Devon Cajuste, who has been almost as good, averaging 18 yards per catch while grabbing five TDs. The pair combined to catch seven balls against ASU for 129 yards and two TDs.
In Stanford’s losses to USC and Utah, its receivers struggled to get open on third down, converting just 10 out of 25 times.
Look for ASU’s All-Pac-12 secondary, which has a conference-leading 21 interceptions, to have another big day in Tempe on Saturday.