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Pac-12 Championship

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Matchup: Stanford at Arizona State
Date: Saturday, Dec. 7
Time/TV: 7:45 p.m. ET - ESPN
Venue: Sun Devil Stadium
Location: Tempe, Arizona
Line, Total: Sun Devils -3, 56

It's Saturday night in the desert, and the Stanford Cardinal (10-2 straight up, 6-6 against the spread) and Arizona State Sun Devils (10-2 straight up, 7-5 against the spread) will do battle for the Pac-12 championship. Both teams are ranked in the Top 25 for the second meeting of the season. Before 2013, both teams had never been ranked in the Top 25 when facing each other.
Stanford has been hard to figure out this season. The Cardinal rolled to wins in their first five games, including the first meeting with Arizona State in Palo Alto back on Sept. 21. However, Stanford lost at Utah Oct. 12, and then against at Southern California Nov. 16. They have been dominant at home, but rather ordinary on the road. In fact, Stanford is just 1-2 straight up in their past three away from Palo Alto, and 2-3 ATS in their five road games this season.
Stanford's offense has been rather ordinary at times, and they rank just 70th in the nation in total yards with 404.9 yards per game. The thing Stanford does well is run the football, and they rank 25th in the country with 209.0 rushing yards per contest. They've managed 32.8 points per game this season, ranking 44th overall. That includes 42 points scored against the Sun Devils in the first meeting.

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The focal point of the offense is Tyler Gaffney, carrying 284 times for 1,480 yards with 17 rushing touchdowns. He also hauled in one receiving score. Two of Gaffney's rushing TDs came against Arizona State in the first meeting. QB Kevin Hogan has been a caretaker of the offense, completing 61 percent of his passes this season for 2,210 yards, 19 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. He isn't really considered a dual-threat QB, but he can move the chains with his feet if he has to. He has 67 rushing attempts for 295 yards and a pair of scores on the ground. Hogan's favorite target, WR Ty Montgomery has team-highs with 53 grabs, 868 yards and nine receiving scores. He also has one rushing score, and he has averaged 31.3 yards per kickoff return, including a 100-yard return for score. Montgomery ripped the Arizona State defense for 62 receiving yards and two scores in the first matchup.

The two sides met back on Sept. 21, and Stanford jumped out to a 29-0 halftime lead, and a 39-7 lead after three quarters. However, the Sun Devils stormed back with 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to make things interesting before Stanford booted a late field goal to win 42-28. Arizona State leads the all-time series 16-12.

The Sun Devils offense starts and stops with QB Taylor Kelly. He completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 3,337 yards, 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The dual-threat QB also is a danger to move the ball on the ground, amassing 437 rushing yards and eight scores on 127 attempts. The Cardinal need to also be mindful of RB Marion Grice, who had 50 rushing yards and a score in the first battle between the two sides. WR Jaelen Strong posted season-highs with 12 catches and 168 yards and a score in the first meeting in Palo Alto. Strong has hit the century mark in receiving yards seven times, including two of his past three games.

The Sun Devils rank eighth in the nation with 43.2 points per game, and they rolled up 473.2 total yards per game, which was 22nd best in the country. Thanks to Kelly, the Sun Devils were also 25th in the country in passing yards with 285.4 yards per game through the air. The key battle in this game will be Stanford's defense against Arizona State's offense. The Cardinal rank 16th in total yards allowed with just 341.8 yards per game. And Stanford is third in the nation, yielding only 87.8 yards per game on the ground. Stanford can be had through the air, ranking 98th in the country, allowing 254.0 yards per game. Look for Kelly and the Sun Devils to try to add to that misery.

Arizona State DB Robert Nelson posted a team-best six interceptions, and will be someone Hogan will want to avoid. The Sun Devils rank 24th in total yards allowed with just 351.0 yards per game. And Stanford is 25th in the nation, allowing just 133.8 yards per game on the ground.

Betting Trends to Watch

-- The Cardinal have covered each of their past four games in the month of December, and they're 19-6-1 ATS in their past 26 road games. They're also an impressive 10-3-1 ATS in their past 14 road games against a team with a winning home record, and 34-16-1 ATS over their past 51 games overall.

-- The Sun Devils are 4-1 ATS in their past five home games, and 6-2 ATS in their past eight conference tilts. In addition, AZ State is 5-2 ATS in their past seven games. However, Arizona State is just 2-6 ATS in its past eight games played in the month of December.

-- In head-to-head matchups, the trends seem to favor Arizona State. The favorite is 5-0-1 ATS in the past six meetings, the home team is 3-0-1 ATS in the past four meetings, and the Cardinal is just 1-3-1 ATS in its past five trips to Tempe. And if you're interested in the total, the 'over' is 5-2 in the past seven meetings in this series.

-- The total is set at 56. It will be interesting to see which side this game falls. The under is 6-1 in Stanford's past seven games overall, and 8-3 in their past 11 road games. The under is also 5-1 in their past six conference tilts, and 4-1 in their past five on grass. On the flip side, the over is 6-2 in Arizona State's past eight home games, 21-8 in their past 29 games on grass, and 7-3 in their past 10 conference battles. The over is also 20-6 in Arizona State's past 26 games against a team with a winning record, and 4-1 in their past five home games against a team with a winning road record.

Pac-12 Championship History

Pac-12 Championship History
Year Location Matchup Line Score ATS Result
2012 Palo Alto, CA Stanford-UCLA Stanford -8 (44) Stanford 27-24 Underdog-Over
2011 Eugene, OR Oregon-UCLA Oregon -31 (66.5) Oregon 49-31 Underdog-Over

  
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