Following the chaos within the Pac-12 conference over the past two weeks, Arizona State’s bid to repeat as the champion of the South looks promising.
The Sun Devils enter the back half of their schedule controlling their own fate. Saturday is a crucial game at Sun Devil Stadium as they host No. 23 Stanford. After having a week off this is one of the several difficult obstacles standing between them and a trip to Santa Clara for the conference championship in Dec.
“Every week is a single elimination tournament, that we obviously control our own destiny in,” head coach Todd Graham said Monday.
The division features Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and USC as teams with one loss who are trying to separate themselves from the pack.
“You have to bring it every week in this conference. Anyone can beat anyone,” said Graham about the parity in the Pac-12.
The Cardinal has had all the success against the Sun Devils over the past six years, holding a four-game winning streak during that stretch. Its system of running the ball relentlessly, dominating time of possession and not committing turnovers have been a winning formula for them.
“They’re one of the best prepared, and one of the most disciplined. They don’t beat themselves,” Graham said.
What are the differences between Stanford from last year and this year?
“The only difference you see in them is the number of turnovers they’ve had recently, which is very uncharacteristic of them…we can’t depend on that happening again,” Graham said.
Stanford was upset early in the season against USC after missing two short field goals, including a fumble in the final minute when it looked like the game would go to overtime. They suffered another defeat in the final minute at No. 5 Notre Dame when they surrendered the game-winning touchdown on a 4th-and-11 from the 23-yard line.
They bounced back with a 34-17 win over Washington State Friday.
To no surprise, Graham discussed the keys to beating Stanford are the same to beating each and every team.
Control the ball offensively, dominate the opponent physically at the line of scrimmage and create explosive plays.
“When we have 100% ball security, we’re undefeated. That’s the key for us to win.”