Posted December 08, 2013

Stanford defeats Arizona State 38-14 to win second straight Pac-12 championship

Arizona State Sun Devils, Pac-12, Stanford Cardinal
tyler-gaffney-photo

Tyler Gaffney rushed for 133 yards and three TDs in Stanford’s win at Arizona State. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Trailing Stanford 31-14 late in the third quarter on Saturday night, Arizona State finally seemed ready to mount a rally. Behind quarterback Taylor Kelly, the Sun Devils marched 74 yards in 16 plays, all the way to the Cardinal’s one-yard line. But Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov stuffed tight end De’Marieya Nelson on fourth-and-goal. The Cardinal then closed the book on any sort of comeback attempt with a 99-yard scoring drive, capped by a 24-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kevin Hogan to Ty Montgomery. Stanford routed the Sun Devils 38-14 to win their second consecutive Pac-12 crown.

At times this year, the Cardinal have looked like one of the best teams in the nation: They beat Oregon 26-20 on Nov. 7; throttled UCLA 24-10 on Oct. 19; and whipped the Sun Devils twice. Stanford plays with a nasty streak, and it is physically relentless.

But losses to Utah (27-21 on Oct. 12) and USC (20-17 on Nov. 16) — games in which Hogan did not play well — will keep the Cardinal out of the BCS championship game. If this were 2014, perhaps they would be the fourth team to qualify for the College Football Playoff. Instead, they’ll play in the Rose Bowl.

Stanford is at its best when it can establish its offensive identity early. The Cardinal want to run the ball, and they want to force opponents to stop them. On Saturday it quickly became apparent that Arizona State wasn’t up to the task. Stanford tailback Tyler Gaffney carried the ball 22 times — the ninth game this season that he has surpassed 20 carries — for 133 yards and three touchdowns.

Gaffney has quietly turned in one of the most dominant seasons of any player in 2013. With 1,618 rushing yards, he is inching closer to the school single-season rushing record held by Toby Gerhart (1,871 yards).

Coach David Shaw and the Cardinal can take pride knowing they won college football’s version of Game of Thrones. The Pac-12 was a bloody struggle for supremacy. No one made it out unscathed. But at the end of the day, Stanford will fly its flag. The conference was the nation’s deepest, and the last week has already ensured that it will get even tougher: Washington hired former Boise State coach Chris Petersen after USC hired former Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian.

Shaw’s name will come up in plenty of coaching rumors – he’s already been mentioned in connection with the Houston Texans’ gig – but even if he chases an NFL job, the Cardinal are in a stable place. They have repeated as conference champions. In today’s college football landscape, that’s about all anyone can ask for.

18 comments
Rick56
Rick56

I was looking forward to Ohio State for the Rose Bowl, but MSU will do....it will be a great game. 

MrArlington
MrArlington

It always amazes me how many Pac 12 teams get ranked who shouldn't be. This conference just is not good at football on a national level. They beat up on each other and get beat up by others when play non conference teams or bowl games.

gpt85
gpt85

The Pac 12 has the highest win % vs other AQ conferences and vs the entire FBS. They are very close to the SEC in overall non conference win %, with the SEC having a slight edge because they are 13-1 vs FCS teams while the PAC 12 is 9-1. So, nice try...

BrianHarris
BrianHarris

@MrArlington So I am guessing you haven't actually watched any Pac-12 football? The conference is arguably the best conference in the nation perhaps giving only a slight edge to the SEC. The reason there consistently is not a team from the Pac-12 in the national title game is the conference's overall depth. There literally aren't any easy wins in the conference any more and the teams schedule solid out of conference schools. Stanford played and beat more ranked opponents than pretty much anyone in the country. Had they not moved away from their game plan and lost very close games to Utah and USC, then they would undoubtedly be in the title game.

A36
A36

@MrArlington You clearly demonstrate no understanding of how good conferences are.  Try trolling elsewhere.

ucla2k3
ucla2k3

@MrArlington The Pac 12 is arguably the toughest conference in the country. We don't win all of our nonconference games because we actually play real teams on the road unlike the SEC schools that pay an FCS squad to show up and get crushed. Just a couple weeks ago when all the schools were fighting to survive, Alabama played Chattanooga. Are you kidding me? It's games like these that have college football fans outside of the South to have zero respect for the SEC despite the fact that they have won the last 7 national titles. When you examine an SEC's schedule, it's not really that hard to go undefeated when you have 3 nonconference cupcakes and SEC doormats like Kentucky and Vanderbilt. That's essentially half the season that a top SEC school doesn't have to play, thus an easier route and an advantage to clinching a spot in the BCS title game. In my opinion, the SEC is still better than the Pac 12 but that talent gap is closing real quick as the West coast schools are now starting to utilize their television revenue to build monolithic football facilities up and down the West coast. I'm a UCLA guy and you'll be hard press to find a SEC team willing to play my Bruins. Our perfect record (two wins against Alabama and two wins against Tennessee) makes an SEC AD think twice before putting UCLA on the calendar. ESPN tried to arrange a UCLA-Auburn matchup at the George Dome to open the season a few years ago when Cam Newton was still around but Auburn declined. The Tigers knew that playing the Bruins would put their perfect season and national title hopes in jeopardy. And I don't blame the SEC one bit. Why play a harder schedule when you can get away playing a cupcake schedule? Fortunately, that's coming to an end as the playoff committee will be looking at a team's schedule when evaluating a team's ranking.

zeebaneighba
zeebaneighba

As I noted above, over the past four years the Pac 12 has finished the reason with the fewest ranked teams and the worst bowl record of the five major conferences. So it's pretty tough to argue that this year's Pac 12 is the toughest.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

See my a post above for those solid out of conference games that you are so proud of.   Oh, and just like Stanford, if any team in the country could magically turn all their losses into wins, they could dream of a title game appearance.  However, back here in reality, results are results.

zeebaneighba
zeebaneighba

ucla2k3 - That's a pretty hard argument to sustain. The Big 10 is supposed to be unusually weak, but Notre Dame went 2-1 against both conferences. ASU not only lost to ND, but likely would have lost to Wisconsin if not for the ref's incompetence. 

Over the past four years, the Pac 12 has had the fewest ranked teams (12) at the end of the season of the five major conferences and the worst record in bowl play. Stanford and Oregon have looked strong at times, but have stumbled at others.


We'll get a better picture of the relative strength of the major conferences after the bowl games are done, but to claim right now that the Pac 12 is the toughest conference overall is simply ludicrous. And I'm not an SEC fan, I'm an MSU Spartan. We'll see on Jan. 1 just how tough Stanford is.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

Nicholls State, Virginia, Tennessee, Eastern Washington, Hawaii, San Diego State, Southern Utah, Idaho, Illinois, Idaho State, Portland State, San Jose State, Army, Weber State, Central Arkansas, Charleston Southern, Utah State, Boston College, Nevada, New Mexico State, Sacramento State, Northern Arizona, UNLV, Texas-San Antonio.  In common?   They all appear on 2013 Pac-12 football schedules.

IndependentsDay
IndependentsDay

@SculptorDad @IndependentsDay Actually, no I am not.  I am from the valley and just hate ASU and their "fans" with a passion.  Willing to bet you are a fair-weather fan who hasn't watched them since Erickson's first year, and then 5 years before that.  

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

Your comprehension skills are failing you.  At no point did I state that NDSU should be vying for anything.  I simply stated that if a team did win all of its games, it could dream of the opportunity.  And yes, results are results, which was my original point.

A36
A36

@JoeCabot Intriguing.  So in your world, North Dakota State should be vying for the BCS championship.  Cause no defeats and all.  Results are results.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

No interest whatsoever, given that the post that I responded to was about the Pac-12.  However, this could be done for most teams in the country, which is why it is so amusing to see folks droning on about it year after year.

A36
A36

@JoeCabot Care to do that with the other conferences as well?