Todd Graham set out on a missing in 2013 with the Arizona State Sun Devils to take the program to the Rose Bowl game in just his second season at the helm. Last week, they took the next step towards that goal when they clinched the Pac-12 South division title with a win over the UCLA Bruins. This week, they could do what many thought impossible and earn home-field advantage in the conference championship by defeating the rival Arizona Wildcats this weekend.
All season long, it was just taken for granted that the North division would dominate the Pac-12 standings and host the game for the third straight time. But with the Stanford Cardinal suffering two losses this season in conference play (both on the road), they finish the year at 7-2 in conference play as they wrap up their season with a non-conference game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. ASU comes into the weekend at 7-1 in conference play. With a win over the Wildcats, they would improve to 8-1 and earn the right to host the title game in Tempe.
That is huge news considering the difference between the performances of Arizona State and Stanford between when they are at home and when they have to travel. Neither team has lost this season at home but have had their issues on the road. When playing in Tempe, ASU has averaged 47.7 points per game while they manage just 35.0 points per game when on the road. Stanford, meanwhile has averaged 36.7 points per game on The Farm while putting up only 29.4 on the road. The Sun Devil defense has also enjoyed their home-cooking this season, allowing just 20.8 points at home while giving up 30.4 points on the road.
And we have already seen what happens when Arizona State goes to Palo Alto earlier this season. In the Pac-12 opener for both teams, the Cardinal pounded the Sun Devils early, building a 39-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter before ultimately winning 42-28. It was a win that sent the Cardinal off on the right foot for their Pac-12 title defense tour in 2013 and seemingly exposed ASU as a pretender in the conference chase.
But now the tables have turned and it is Arizona State who holds the advantage for the Pac-12 title. Can they maintain that advantage by beating Arizona this weekend and force the road to the Rose Bowl to run through Tempe?