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[+] Team Summaries

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pac-12 Championship Preview

10-2 Stanford vs. 10-2 Arizona State
Saturday, 7:45, ESPN

What they do well

Stanford ranks in the top 25 offensively in EP3+ (1.24), starting field position (66.4), and time of possession (163 seconds per possession).  Defensively, the Cardinal is top 25 in EP3+ (1.06), starting field position (74.4), fewest drives ending in TDs (17.3%), points surrendered per red zone trip (4.16), and red zone trips ended with turnover on downs (12.1%).

Arizona State is top 25 offensively in points per possession (2.84), EP3+ (1.57), field position (66.4), and getting to the red zone (41% of all drives).  Defensively, the Sun Devils are top 25 in EP3+ (0.96), plays per possession allowed (4.92), yards per possession (24.0), time of possession (125 seconds), and turnovers forced (15.7%).  

What they don't do well

Stanford isn't great at making the most of their red zone trips, averaging just 4.78 points per trip and scoring a TD in just 57% of trips into the red zone.  Stanford has topped 30 points only once in their last 7 games, and this is one reason why.  Defensively, Stanford is good as usual, but two weaknesses stand out: they aren't a turnover machine (84th), and while they limit big plays and scoring in general, they aren't quick to get off the field, ranking 114th in plays per possession (6.20) and 68th in TOP (139 seconds per drive).

Arizona State has no real discernible offensive weaknesses.  Defensively, they're strong except for the final 20 yards.  When defending the red zone, Arizona State ranks 86th in points per trip (5.05), and not once has Arizona State forced a turnover on downs in that area of the field.  Teams that cross ASU's 20 score, and they usually score touchdowns.

EPA+ Matchup

Stanford rush O (.14) vs. Arizona State rush D (.09)
Stanford pass O (.24) vs. Arizona State pass D (.17)
Arizona State rush O (.24) vs. Stanford rush D (.15)
Arizona State pass O (.24) vs. Stanford pass D (.19)

The first thing I always do is look for mismatches, but here there's not an obvious one.  It turns out the closest thing we have is Arizona State's rushing offense against Stanford's rushing defense.  That's pretty surprising, as Stanford in recent years has had elite rush defense, and they famously stifled Oregon's running attack earlier this year.  Utah was able to run on Stanford, but for the most part, teams have been unable to.  Specifically, Arizona State was stifled in their earlier season matchup, running 24 times for just 50 yards in Stanford's win.  That should be the key matchup of this game.  Taylor Kelly will get his passing yards, and Stanford's fine with that as long as they come on passing downs like last time.  Arizona State's rushing attack has improved throughout the season, and they get their chance to make up for the one big blemish on their season.  They should be better equipped to do so this time around, at home.


This should be an excellent game, with excellent matchups.  Tune in to watch Arizona State's offense take on Stanford's defense, but another matchup also has my eye: Stanford's poor red zone offense against Arizona State's equally underwhelming red zone defense.  The best play will happen with those units on the bench, but the game could be decided in those key moments.

I think this game could play pretty evenly, but I'll take the Sun Devils at home.

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