NCAA Football Picks: Stanford to Continue Dominance of Arizona St.

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, October 16, 2014 5:48 PM GMT

Big one in the Pac-12 Conference Saturday as Stanford visits Arizona State in a rematch of last season's Pac-12 title game. The loser Saturday probably won't make it back there. The Cardinal are 3-point favorites on BookMaker's NCAA football odds.

Kelly to Return for Devils?
By far the biggest question entering this game is the status of very good Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly. He injured his foot in a Sept. 13 win over Colorado and missed the past two games, a blowout home loss to UCLA and a big 38-34 win at USC on Oct. 4. In ASU's first three games, all wins by at least 14 points, Kelly was 42 of 68 for 625 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. He's a good runner as well, rushing 19 times for 168 yards and two touchdowns.

Sun Devils coach Todd Graham obviously doesn't have to tell Stanford whether Kelly will return or not but all indications are that he will. Or maybe Graham just wants the Cardinal to have to prepare for the dual-threat Kelly. It also appears that junior Mike Bercovici will start again. He had thrown seven passes in his college career entering this season but has been pretty good the past two games. Against the Bruins, he completed 42 of 68 for 488 yards, three touchdowns and two picks. Against USC he was a monster, going 27 of 45 for 510 yards and five touchdowns. That last TD was a game-winning 46-yard Hail Mary to Jaelen Strong, who essentially waltzed into the end zone. Amazingly, it was the first five-TD game ever against USC.

This will be the third straight AP Top-25 team that Arizona State has faced, the first time that's happened for the school since 2000. One statistic working against ASU is that entering Week 8, Pac-12 home teams are a sad 4-14 in conference games this season.

The No. 17 Sun Devils (4-1, 2-1) are tied with Arizona for second in the Pac-12 behind USC, but ASU of course has that nice head-to-head tiebreaker vs. the Trojans.  ASU is 2-3 ATS this season at sportsbooks and 3-2 'over/under.' It has failed to cover both home games on NCAA football odds.

 

Close Only Counts in ....
No. 23 Stanford (4-2, 2-1) could very easily be unbeaten and a Top-5 team entering this game with a break or two. The Cardinal lost their Pac-12 opener at home to USC 13-10 early in the season despite statistically dominating that game. They had 413 yards to 291 for USC and held the ball nearly eight minutes longer. However, every time that Stanford got into the USC red zone something seemed to go wrong. The Cardinal had eight penalties, two turnovers and two missed field goals, plus were stopped on a fourth-and-1 at the USC 3. Stanford drove inside the USC 35-yard line on all 9 of its drives.

Two weeks ago at Notre Dame, all the Cardinal had to do was stop the Irish on fourth-and-11 at the Stanford 23 with just over a minute left in heavy rain. Instead, blown coverage led to Notre Dame tight end Ben Koyack being wide open in the corner of the end zone, and Everett Golson hit him for the 17-14 victory. The Irish defense held the Cardinal to 205 yards total offense. Cardinal QB Kevin Hogan was not good in that one, going 18 of 36 for 158 yards and two interceptions. The Cardinal offense has been very up-and-down but has one of the nation's top all-purpose threats in receiver Ty Montgomery.

The Cardinal lead the nation in scoring defense, allowing 10.0 points per game, are second in total defense (238.0 ypg), fourth in passing defense (138.2 ypg) and ninth in rushing defense (9.8 ypg). Stanford has held its past 29 opponents under 30 points, easily the longest streak in the  nation. Considering the Cardinal play Oregon once a year, that's impressive. Stanford and the Ducks are tied for first in the Pac-12 North. They play Nov. 1 in Eugene.

Stanford is 3-3 ATS this season at sportsbooks and 0-5 'over/under.' It hasn't covered yet on the road this season in NCAA football odds.

 

Last Meeting
In the Pac-12 Championship Game in Tempe on Dec. 7, 2013, No. 7 Stanford beat No. 11 Arizona State 38-14 with the Cardinal as 3-point underdogs on NCAA football odds. Tyler Gaffney ran for 133 yards and three scores, but he's in the NFL now. The Cardinal were up 28-7 in the second quarter and that was essentially that. They had 517 yards of offense to ASU's 311. Hogan was 12 of 18 for 277 yards with a TD. Montgomery ran for a touchdown and caught one.  Kelly was 17 of 25 for 173 yards with a TD. The teams also met in the Pac-12 opener in Palo Alto last year. The Cardinal won 42-28 as 6.5-point favorites at sportsbooks. That one was 29-0 at the half and that was essentially that. Gaffney ran for 87 yards and two scores, while Hogan threw for 151 and two -- both to Montgomery. Kelly was 30-for-55 for 367 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He had to throw a lot because ASU managed only 50 yards rushing.

NCAAF Free Picks: Stanford -3 at 5Dimes and the 'under' 54.5 points. While this the best offense that Stanford has faced this year, it's also by far the best defense ASU has seen. Stanford has won four straight in this series by an average of around 15 points. The 'under' is 5-2 in the  past seven meetings. The 'under' is also 11-1 in Stanford's past 12 vs. teams with a winning record.

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