Some notes to get you through the hours until Saturday. Thanks to ESPN Stats & Information for many of these numbers.
The stakes in the Pac-12 championship game between Arizona State and Stanford is an invitation to the 100th edition of the Rose Bowl Game.
Stanford won the Rose Bowl last season and is looking to reach the Rose Bowl in consecutive season for the first time since 1970 and 1971. Stanford played in the very first Rose Bowl, a 49-0 loss to Michigan in 1902 (1901 season). Arizona State has reached the Rose Bowl twice in school history, with the last coming during the 1996 season. It lost that Rose Bowl 20-17 to Ohio State.
This is a rematch (though in a different stadium) of a game these teams played on September 21, a dominating effort by Stanford in a 42-28 win. The Cardinal led that game 29-0 at halftime and only allowed seven rushing yards in the first half. The Sun Devils managed just 50 yards on the ground for the game, which was their only Pac-12 loss. Arizona State’s rushing game will have a challenge again since RB Marion Grice likely won’t play in this game with a leg injury. Grice also missed last week’s game against Arizona.
This is the second straight season that Stanford will be playing in the Pac-12 championship game against a team it played earlier in the season. Last season Stanford won at UCLA in the regular-season finale, then hosted UCLA six days later in the Pac-12 championship game and won the rematch.
How important was it for Arizona State to get this game at home? The Sun Devils are 7-0 at home this season, outscoring opponents by 28.3 points per game. That’s much better than playing at Stanford, where the Cardinal have won 16 straight home games, the second-longest active home win streak in the FBS behind South Carolina’s 18.
The Cardinal has been at its best against top-quality opponents recently, going 9-0 in its last nine games against AP-ranked opponents. That includes a 5-0 record this season. Stanford’s only two losses this season came on the road against unranked opponents.
Each of these teams has played an exceedingly difficult schedule according to ESPN analytical measurements. That helps illustrate why, even with two losses, Arizona State is ranked No. 2 overall and Stanford No. 4 overall in the latest edition of ESPN’s Championship Drive Ratings. The Championship Drive Ratings evaluate teams on the difficulty of achieving their record and how well they control games using in-game win probability, both adjusted for quality of opponent. The Sun Devils strength of schedule rating was third in the nation. Stanford's was seventh.
Stanford QB Kevin Hogan needs to be careful in this game: Arizona State has returned five interceptions for touchdowns this season. That’s tied for most in the FBS with Florida State and Baylor. It’s the same number of interceptions returned for touchdowns that Arizona State had over the previous three seasons combined.
The Pac-12 all-conference teams were announced on Monday and maybe it’s no surprise that these teams are meeting for the conference title since they tied for the conference lead with six first-team selections each. Arizona State coach Todd Graham was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year and is squaring off in this game against the coach who won it each of the previous two years: Stanford’s David Shaw.
Arizona State DL Will Sutton was named Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight year. The only other Pac-12 player to be Defensive Player of the Year twice in his career is Washington DL Steve Emtman.