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.”