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ESPN's Tom Luginbill: ASU's adjustments vs. Stanford run game will be key

Stanford running back Anthony Wilkerson (32) celebrates after a touchdown run past Arizona State safety Alden Darby, left, during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

In Forrest Gump's lexicon, the Stanford Cardinal are the polar opposite of a box of chocolates.

You know what you're gonna get.

Stanford (10-2) is a power running team that will frequently use extra offensive lineman as tight ends in blocking schemes for workhorse tailback Tyler Gaffney. It's a strategy the Cardinal used in their 42-28 win over Arizona State in September, and one they'll use again Saturday when the two teams meet at Sun Devil Stadium in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

"The difference is going to be, if you take Arizona State, and I know they've studied that Oregon tape intently, how Arizona State handles the eight-man offensive line formations and personnel groupings, and how they contend with that from within the box," ESPN college football insider Tom Luginbill told Doug and Wolf Wednesday on Arizona Sports 620. "As explosive and fast and athletic and rangy Arizona State is on defense, they don't have a lot of beef. That's not how they're built.

"Oregon made no adjustments to how Stanford chose to attack them."

The Cardinal beat second-ranked Oregon 26-20 in early November using a pounding running game. Stanford ran the ball 66 times against the Ducks, including 45 carries and 157 yards by Gaffney in the victory.

Regardless of opponent, that's what Stanford does. The Cardinal have run the ball nearly 65 percent of the time in 2013.

"I think Stanford is going to try and create wide edges. They don't want a short path to the quarterback, because we all know ASU can rush the passer," Luginbill said. "They're going to try to overload them in a phone booth, I believe.

"And if you're Arizona State, you're going to have to commit some people to the box because I think that ASU feels, even with a lopsided loss to Stanford the first time, they have a skill advantage on the perimeter, so they're not as worried about taking that risk."

In their meeting in Palo Alto earlier this year, Stanford ran the ball on 74 percent (49-of-66) of their offensive plays.

Despite Stanford's "pound the ball" mentality, Luginbill likes the Sun Devils' chances to win the Pac-12 crown and spend New Year's Day in Pasadena.

"This is a bit of a revenge game -- I think Arizona State felt like they left a lot of plays on the field the first time around. There are some advantages that point to an Arizona State win here, because I don't think Stanford plays as good when they're not on The Farm."

About the Author

School: Arizona State University

When you started with Bonneville Phoenix: October 2011

Favorite sports memory: Watching Cardinals win NFC Championship over Philly in January 2009 with my Dad...ASU wins 1987 Rose Bowl...Suns defeat Lakers in 1990 NBA Playoffs...2001 World Series

Favorite all-time athletes: Don Mattingly, Jeff Hornacek, Walter Davis, Anquan Boldin

Favorite sports movies: Friday Night Lights, The Natural, Hoosiers


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