There could be an upset in store on Championship Saturday in college football when the underdog Stanford Cardinal (10-2, 3-2 away) pay a visit to the Arizona State Sun Devils (10-2, 7-0 home) in the Pac-12 Championship Game from Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, AZ at 7:45 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Stanford as a road underdog for this contest with the current line at +3 with positive odds of +101.
This championship is a rematch of a regular season meeting won by Stanford 42-28 back home in Palo Alto on September 21st in a game that was not all that close, as the Cardinal led 39-7 entering the fourth quarter thanks to dominating Arizona State on the ground, rushing for 241 yards on 48 carries overall for a spiffy 5.0 yards per carry.
Arizona State enters this game on a seven-game winning streak since its only other loss this season, a narrow 37-34 loss to Notre Dame in a non-conference affair in Arlington, and the Sun Devils are a perfect 7-0 here in Tempe on the year while winning by an average or +28.2 points, helping explain why ASU is favored over a higher ranked Stanford team in this spot.
However, when it comes to championship games, we have always been more partial to the better team as opposed to the home team, especially when the better team is the underdog like it is here. Stanford also seems better suited for post-season success because the Cardinal have a great physical defense and power running game, a formula that will win you a lot of championships at both the college and professional level.
There is really no reason for Stanford to vary from what it did to Arizona State during the regular season, especially with running back Tyler Gaffney peaking at the perfect time, averaging 152.5 rushing yards over his last six games following his 189-yard effort against Notre Dame in the regular season finale last week. We do not expect the Sun Devils to slow Gaffney and the other Stanford backs down with a defense allowing 156.7 rushing yards per game the last three weeks.
Then there is the Stanford defense, which has made a habit of beating up finesse offenses. But do not take our word for it, just ask the Oregon Ducks or the Oregon State Beavers how it feels to go up against the Cardinal defense without a physical offense, and remember that Stanford beat up Sean Mannion and the Beavers on the road in Corvallis, so the Cardinal will not be impressed by Arizona State’s 7-0 home mark.
The tone of this contest may be set early because the Sun Devils have become famous for their quick starts in games, outscoring opponents 238-102 in the first quarter since Todd Graham became the head coach. You can bet that Stanford is cognizant of that fact and will look to control the Time of Possession with the running game right from the start, which has been its wont under Coach David Shaw anyway.
And when Arizona State has the ball, we do not believe the Sun Devils’ offense will have its usual success vs. a Stanford team allowing only 19.0 points per game while yielding just 6.2 yards per pass attempt and 3.0 yards per rush.
The Cardinal are simply the better, more physical team on both sides of the ball, and that should be enough to offset the Arizona State home field advantage as Stanford pulls the outright upset on Saturday.
College Football Pick: Stanford +3 (+101)