Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at 7:00 AM
First, they were the team that was lucky to beat Wisconsin thanks to friendly officiating in the final seconds of a mid-September showdown. Then, they were the team that got Lane Kiffin fired at Southern Cal. The next week, they were the team that couldn’t beat disappointing Notre Dame on a neutral field in Texas. If you can’t beat Notre Dame on a neutral field, you must not be anything special. Everyone forgot about them.
ARIZONA STATE HASN’T LOST SINCE!
And, because of that dominating run down the stretch in Pac 12 play, the Arizona State Sun Devils are now FAVORITES to win the league championship and play in the Rose Bowl. Not alleged superpower Oregon, who was supposedly locked into the BCS Championship game back in October. Not Stanford, the team that derailed Oregon. Not UCLA or USC, two teams who have been in the news all season long. Arizona State is a 3-point favorite at home this Saturday Night against Stanford in the game that will send the Pac 12 representative to the Rose Bowl.
Stanford has made attending the Rose Bowl a recent habit. They don’t plan on just laying down and letting ASU get all the glory. They have a regular season win over the Sun Devils back in September. And, they have a lot of experience this year with challenge games against decent opposition.
To get a sense of best expectations for Saturday’s surprising championship matchup, let’s see how both of these teams have performed this season vs. bowl caliber opposition.
STANFORD vs. BOWL ELIGIBLE TEAMS
Stanford (-24) beat San Jose State 34-13 (winning yardage 404-251)
Stanford (-6) beat Arizona State 42-28 (losing yardage 391-417)
Stanford (-10) won at Washington State 55-17 (winning yardage 560-373)
Stanford (-9) beat Washington (losing yardage 279-489)
Stanford (-4) beat UCLA (winning yardage 419-266)
Stanford (-4) won at Oregon State (losing yardage 273-288)
Stanford (+10) beat Oregon (winning yardage 374-312)
Stanford (-3) lost at USC (winning yardage 387-311)
Stanford (-15) beat Notre Dame (winning yardage 419-263)
Wow…that’s NINE games against teams who managed to earn bowl eligible won-lost records this season. The Pac 12 was loaded. And, San Jose State and Notre Dame aren’t exactly cupcakes outside the league. Interesting that one of Stanford’s losses this year was to a non-bowl team! Utah didn’t quite qualify because they were the odd team out in a very deep battle royale. The Cardinal lost a heartbreaker at Utah in very tough schedule spot the week after that war with Washington.
On the whole, solid results from the Cardinal. This isn’t a blowout team that rolls up big yardage numbers. Their bench is poor, which puts a ceiling on how good Stanford can look in the numbers. Between the hashmarks, they outclassed Oregon, and generally held opponents WAY below their normal scoring and yardage norms. Smash mouth football still works in the modern era.
ARIZONA STATE vs. BOWL ELIGIBLE TEAMS
Arizona State (-5) beat Wisconsin 32-30 (winning yardage 468-441)
Arizona State (+6) lost at Stanford 42-28 (winning yardage 417-391)
Arizona State (-4) beat USC 62-41 (winning yardage 612-542)
Arizona State (-6) lost Notre Dame 37-34 in Dallas (winning yardage 427-424)
Arizona State (-3) beat Washington 53-24 (winning yardage 585-212)
Arizona State (-11) at Washington State 55-21 (winning yardage 557-302)
Arizona State (-13) beat Oregon State 30-17 (losing yardage 339-390)
Arizona State (-2) won at UCLA (winning yardage 448-404)
Arizona State (-12) beat Arizona 58-21 (winning yardage 478-424)
The Sun Devils also played nine teams who were bowl eligible. And, they had Wisconsin instead of San Jose State early! What a brutal schedule. The market has been slow to catch up to what this team was capable of. And, even after they did get close, the Sun Devils covered their last two games against UCLA and Arizona anyway!
Earlier this season, it would have been tough to imagine ASU as a clear favorite over Stanford. The Sun Devils were +6 on the road in September, suggesting pick-em at home. After Stanford beat Oregon, Cardinal stock rose even higher. ASU has played so well in recent weeks that oddsmakers and sharps are in agreement that it’s the Sun Devils who are more likely to play in Pasadena come New Year’s.
Current Vegas Line: Arizona State by 3, total of 56
JIM HURLEY has done a lot of thinking about the pointspread you see above. If you focus on Stanford’s strengths, they might seem like a steal as an underdog. They beat Oregon for goodness sake. Oregon and ASU play similar styles, and have similar defensive weaknesses at the point of attack. But, ASU has posted such great results at home vs. quality that the number may actually be too low.
*ASU crushed USC 62-41, and USC edged Stanford
*ASU crushed Washington 53-24, and Washington outplayed Stanford in a nailbiter
Also, ASU won on the same Utah field where Stanford lost. Most importantly, ASU has the ability to take Stanford out of its gameplan by scoring early. If Stanford has to pass to stay in the game, it’s no longer smash mouth football.
The final word in this weekend’s conference championship games will be posted later this week. You can always purchase daily BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. Build your bankrolls now in basketball for this weekend’s football!
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Our football previews continue through the week with:
Thursday: Houston at Jacksonville in the NFL
Friday: SEC Championship matching Auburn vs. Missouri
Saturday: Big 10 Championship matching Ohio State vs. Michigan State
When championships are on the line, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!