Early Pac-12 Matchup Has Major Pac-12 Championship Implications
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Arizona State vs Stanford: Pac-12 Championship in September?
Week four of college football may contain the least exciting matchups in the whole year. Week three had some incredible matchups between Bama/A&M, Wisconsin/ASU, UCLA/Nebraska, and Ole Miss/Texas. However, Week four only has one matchup between two teams from the top 25: #23 Arizona State @ #5 Stanford.
However, despite the fact that it is the only top 25 matchup, this game means so much more. It showcases speed vs power. Brains vs partiers. And most importantly, it could go a long way in determining the Pac-12 Championship. A little early to be saying something like that? Maybe. But here's why this game is so big.
So far it is looking like the Pac-12 race is between five teams: Oregon, Stanford, Washington, UCLA, and Arizona State. The former three are in the North Division, with the latter two in the South. While things could definitely change, these five teams have looked the strongest going into conference play. Stanford and Arizona State could meet in the Pac-12 title game, and I would say that both have a very good shot. However, they both have an extremely tough road there. Winning this first game could be crucial to getting to that game, and getting to the ultimate goal of a BCS game.
So who needs to win this game more? That would be Stanford, and here's why. Stanford is in the North, which is looking like a three-team race as opposed to the South's apparent two-team race. Stanford thus far must be higher in the standings than Oregon AND Washington. If ASU beats Stanford, then Stanford would already be playing catch-up before even playing Oregon or Washington. Plus, Stanford gets no breaks. They not only have to play ASU, Oregon, and Washington, but they have a showdown against UCLA, USC, and a Cal team that has shown sparks of a decent football team. That is a lot of hard games, and it will be incredibly tough to win all of them. Oregon has a good chance of beating Stanford, and if Stanford loses to ASU, than every Pac-12 matchup becomes a must win game, and Stanford would either need to beat Oregon or have Oregon lose three Pac-12 games. Needless to say, Stanford needs to win this game.
ASU on the other hand has a little more breathing room. With a loss to Stanford, the UCLA matchup appears to be a must win game. However, UCLA has to play Oregon, Stanford, Washington, and ASU...a high possibility of at least two losses here. Arizona State, meanwhile, escapes having to play Oregon, whom could hand losses to both Stanford and UCLA. If so, Arizona State would be in prime position to win the South, even with a loss to Stanford tonight.
Therefore, this game could be a huge factor in determining the Pac-12 Championship. Arizona State has a bit less to lose with a loss, whereas a win would not only put ASU in great shape to win the South, but it would also take the program to the next level and open the eyes of the college football world. Stanford, on the other hand, needs a win to keep level with Oregon and Washington, and send a message to doubters that they are for real.
As far as the game goes, Stanford is a power, pro-style offense with a stout defense. Arizona State on the other hand is a fast-paced spread offense with a defense that is above average. So far, Stanford has not looked impressive at all. A 34-13 win over San Jose State and a 34-20 win over Army are not wins that scream "5th in the nation." Arizona State will by far have the best offense Stanford has faced all year, and it will be interesting to see if their defense is as good as they've claimed to be. Arizona State has impressed however, with a 55-0 victory over Sac State, and a controversial 32-30 win over Wisconsin. Say what you will about the Wisconsin game, but the bottom line is, ASU came out on top. Wisconsin has most likely the MOST similar style of play as Stanford. ASU once again will have to deal with a strong O-line with power running. This game should be extremely interesting with the contrasting styles.
I predict that Arizona State gets the huge win. I have not been high on Stanford at all this year, and their first two games have only increased my doubts. I think ASU proves that it is a team worth talking about, eeking out a last minute victory, just like last week.
PREDICTION: (23) Arizona State 33, (5) Stanford 27
Other Pac-12 predictions:
(17) Washington 56, Idaho state 10
Utah State 23, USC 31
Oregon State 33, San Diego State 21
BYU 28, Utah 24
(13) UCLA 60, New Mexico State 7
Idaho 20, Washington State 34
Pac-12 rankings Week Four
4. Arizona State
7. Washington State
8. Oregon State
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