Tempe, AZ – Arizona State is 60 minutes from roses. That’s right, they’re 60 minutes away from packing their bags for Pasadena, and only the Stanford Cardinal stand in their way.
Coming into this game the Sun Devils have a tremendous amount of confidence and momentum. In unseasonably cold weather, Stanford brings their smash-mouth style of football. However, the Sun Devil offense is humming and their Hell’s Gate defense has evolved into a menacing force since ASU and Stanford met in September.
The DieHard Storyline for the Pac-12 Championship game tonight will include a Thunder and Lightning attack, a battlefield at the line of scrimmage and a new and improved Sun Devil defense.
Thunder & Lightning Rushing Attack
Offensively, it is imperative that ASU puts the ball in the air because they WANT to, not because they HAVE to. Staying out of 3rd and long yardage will be the difference in maintaining the momentum that Mike Norvell and his offense has found. De’Marieya Nelson, the Devils’ “jack of all trades” showed last week that he can soften a defensive front and pick up tough yards between the tackles. DJ Foster proved himself as an every-down back and looked as explosive as ever. I see ASU pounding the Stanford front, spreading their defense across the field, play-action passing and running the Devil version of the triple option. This will allow for ASU to keep the Cardinal off balance and get to the edges for substantial gains.
ASU O-Line Ready for Cardinal Physical Defensive Front
The ASU offensive line dominated the trenches against Ucla and Arizona. However, the Stanford front seven prides itself on stuffing the run and getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They are one of the top 3 defenses in the country. Moving the chains will be no easy task, but look for a ton of counter, misdirection, and pistol formations to keep the Cardinal guessing. ASU QB Taylor Kelly will rely heavily upon in the read option attack to make good decisions. The ASU version of the triple option went for the first TD last weekend, and you can expect more from the Cardinal. It won’t surprise me if Kelly has close to 100 yards rushing in this game.
New and Improved ASU Defense Ready to Roll
The ASU Hell’s Gate defense has a few new gate-keepers since the last meeting, and this is where I believe the outcome changes. Stanford wants to compress the field and run the ball down their opponent’s throat. Davon Coleman has moved from a defensive end to a 3-techinque D-lineman, and his explosiveness off the ball will cause havoc in the Cardinal backfield. SAM linebacker Salamo Fiso didn’t start in the first meeting, but has solidified the position with head-cracking run defense up the middle and speed to prevent big plays on the edges. Safety Damarious Randall was coming off an injury and didn’t know the defense yet in September. He is a certified “Bird Gang” member and plays the run like a strong safety. These personnel changes allow ASU to drop a safety when needed because they’re not getting bullied up the middle.
Stanford QB Kevin Hogan isn’t a big run threat, but he can move the chains with his feet when plays break down. As long as Hell’s Gate maintains gap integrity and “squeezes” the field to their play-makers (Chris Young), the Devils can keep the Cardinal from opening their playbook. Massive O-lineman hate speed, and the Sun Devil defense has plenty to burn up front.
ASU Special teams is back on track since the first meeting between these teams, with secret weapon PK Zane Gonzalez and Alex Garoutte rugby-style punting. Kick coverage still has to improve because field position will be a huge factor in this game.
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This one is for the Roses for the third time in ASU football history. The Sun Devils have momentum on their side and if they handle their business, they will punch their ticket to the Granddaddy of them all. My reservations for Pasadena are already made.