Saturday’s Pac-12 Championship Game will likely boil down to one thing.
Although it’s a rematch of two teams that met earlier this season — Stanford won 42-28 after racing out to a 39-7 lead at home on Sept. 21 — both of the Cardinal’s losses have come on the road, and Saturday’s game is at Sun Devil Stadium.
And in both of those games, Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan had sub-par performances while the Cardinal strayed from the game plan that’s taken it to three straight BCS bowl games.
“If Hogan plays well, it’s going to be a very close game,” ESPN’s Mark May told Arizona Sports 620’s Burns and Gambo Tuesday. “If Hogan doesn’t play well, Arizona State has a great chance at winning this game.”
Hogan has has completed 55 percent of his passes for 373 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown in the Cardinal’s two losses this season, which came at Utah and USC. In Stanford’s 10 wins, he’s completed better than 60 percent of his passes for 183 yards per game to go along with 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
While that isn’t a huge gap, the Cardinal’s recipe for success is simple: A power run game that takes pressure off Hogan, allowing him to protect the ball while throwing out of play-action sets.
“Stanford has a great power run game and a great counter game,” May said. “They’ll put eight linemen at the line of scrimmage. That’s hard to stop. You know it’s coming, but can you stop it?”
Hogan threw the ball just 17 times for 151 yards in Stanford’s dominating win over ASU earlier this season, but accounted for two Cardinal touchdowns through the air. Stanford rushed for 240 yards on 49 carries — almost five yards per attempt against an Arizona State defense that has allowed 133 rushing yards per game on 3.8 yards per carry.
“ASU has gotten better throughout the season and Stanford has been up-and-down,” May said. “ASU has been extremely consistent. It’s going to be an interesting game.”