It’s been an unusual week in Tempe in celebration of the Pac-12 Football Championship Game on Saturday. Similar to a championship fight week in boxing, both sides gave their parting remarks the day before while stadium crews finished setting the scene outside of the venue.
In this case, ASU coach Todd Graham and Stanford coach David Shaw had their last media obligations in a press conference on Friday and answered questions, most being ones they addressed several times earlier in the week. Both head coaches shook hands and posed for photos with the Pac-12 Championship trophy that sat on the speaking table.
While hosting a conference championship game is a new experience for ASU, Graham is no stranger to the scene. He coached and lost in all three Conference USA Championship Games while coaching at Tulsa from 2007-10.
Graham said he learned a couple lessons from those games and applied them into this week’s preparations.
“One of the games we were supposed to win, we were picked to win but we didn’t win,” he said. “It didn’t really matter how it is picked and it mattered how you play on that given day.”
It’s hard look at those Tulsa teams’ experiences and use the same ones with the 2013 Sun Devils. What Graham can stress to his current team, however, is how valuable preparation is heading toward these games.
“Each team’s different,” Graham said. “You have to have a pulse for your team with how they prepare. Where we are at now and where we were from week one is completely different. Preparation is the key to winning, and the main thing to these things is it has a lot to do on how you’re playing at that time. We’re playing our best football right now.”
Besides what’s at stake in this game, hardly anything seems different for the Sun Devils. As it’s a theme every week, Graham reiterated his team needs to do what it does best — play “disciplined football.”
“The key for us is making sure we win every single play,” Graham said. “Special teams is a big thing and the turnover ratio — don’t beat ourselves.”
Shaw expects playoff atmosphere
The last time Stanford played ASU they had the benefit of playing on The Farm.
But Stanford isn’t in Palo Alto anymore.
This time they play the Sun Devils in Tempe, where the environment figures to be electric to say the least.
“I told the (team) that this is not going to feel like a bowl game, this is going to feel like a playoff game,” Shaw said.
Playing in front of a hostile crowd is not a concern for Shaw, he feels it’s just something that you get used to playing in the Pac-12.
“Every place that you play in this conference is a tough place to play,” Shaw said.“Every place is loud. Every place is energetic.”
In order to beat the Sun Devils in their own house, Shaw will have to find a way to slow down an ASU offense that ranks second in the Pac-12 in scoring offense (43.2 ppg) and third in total offense (473.2 ypg).
“Teams typically start fast at home,” Shaw said “For us, it’s understanding the environment, understanding there’s going to be an early storm of course and we have to weather that, and get ready to play four quarters.”
While Sun Devil Stadium will be new to many of the Cardinal players, it is a little bit of a homecoming for Shaw, who’s father, Willie Shaw, coached at ASU from 1980-84 under head coach Darryl Rogers.
“I spent a lot of time on this campus,” Shaw said. “I had a blast playing around the whole campus. A lot of places for a young man to play and not get in trouble.”
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