Not many people thought the Arizona State Sun Devils would be playing for the Pac-12 title at the beginning of the season, but an 8-1 record in conference play and a 10-2 record overall has produced a conference title game berth. With a win, Arizona State will make its first Rose Bowl since 1997.
This season, the Stanford Cardinal have been one of the best teams in the nation, but even the best teams get upset sometimes. Happening two times this season, the Cardinal lost to teams that were clearly inferior and that hurt their chances at a national title.
Arizona State is led by one of the top quarterbacks in the nation in Taylor Kelly who has passed for 3,337 yards and 27 touchdowns. The junior quarterback has turned this team from an average squad to a top team in the conference and one of the best in the nation. Jaelen Strong has been Kelly’s favorite target, catching 69 passes for 1,067 yards and seven touchdowns — the next closest wide out has just 550 yards and three scores. Marion Grice leads the 44th-ranked rushing attack with 996 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Stanford is led by one of the best quarterbacks in the conference as well — even though his numbers aren’t overly impressive. Kevin Hogan is one of the best game-managers out there and he is a great leader on and off the field. Hogan has passed for 2,210 yards and 19 touchdowns on the year with Ty Montgomery as his favorite target, catching 53 passes for 868 yards and nine scores. Tyler Gaffney leads the 26th-ranked rushing attack with 1,485 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2013.
Defensively, Stanford has been one of the best units in the nation this season. The Cardinal rank 13th in the nation in points allowed and 15th in the country in yards allowed per game. Arizona State ranks 49th in the nation in points allowed and 30th in yards allowed per game.
Stanford will travel to Arizona State to take on the Sun Devils at 7:45 p.m. EST on Saturday, Dec. 7. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.
PREDICTION: Stanford 24, Arizona State 28
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.