Todd Graham, Arizona State visualized Pac-12 Championship appearance in August
TEMPE, Ariz. – Speaking to the media on Friday ahead of Saturday's Pac-12 Football Championship Game vs. Stanford, Arizona State coach Todd Graham sat at a podium with the title game trophy by his side. Despite the presence of more national media than usual, Graham seemed entirely relaxed and confident with the situation.
Perhaps because it already had happened in Graham's mind.
“We sat here right in this room back in August,” Graham said. “We asked our players to close their eyes and we asked them to visualize hosting the Pac-12 Championship. It's priceless to be able to host this.”
The Sun Devils' top-10 scoring offense will be without running back Marion Grice on Saturday, but ASU has sufficient firepower to make up for his absence with quarterback Taylor Kelly, receiver Jaelen Strong and Grice's replacement, D.J. Foster. Defensively, the veteran Sun Devils are playing the best they have all season, Graham said.
“Make no bones about it,” Graham said, “the area we need the most room for improvement is special teams.”
ASU wants to play from ahead to avoid Stanford's pounding running game that will wear on the Sun Devils defense. Graham is confident in Foster and the running game – though he didn't want to minimize the loss of Grice. If the running game gets cooking and the field position battle goes in ASU's favor, then it can pick and choose when to attack down the field.
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“When [Stanford] can control the ball and get into their power sets and all that, it makes it difficult,” Graham said. “We definitely want to be throwing the ball when we want to, not when we have to.”
Graham said he likes ASU's focus heading into the most significant game of his short time in Tempe.
"Each team's different," Graham said. "I think you have to have a pulse for your team."
Maybe it's because Graham already has seen this story play out.