There will not be a more confusing player evaluation for NFL scouts than Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney.
But Gaffney doesn't break explosive plays -- only eight runs longer than 20 yards in 284 carries -- isn't much of a factor as a receiver -- only 13 receptions this season -- and runs behind a veteran offensive line loaded with future draft picks. CBSSports.com has Gaffney ranked 18th at his position.
"He's the key," ASU coach Todd Graham said during a teleconference Tuesday. "We've got to make sure we do a great job of keeping him contained. The key is winning the line of scrimmage, which is a big challenge."
Gaffney rushed for 87 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-28 win over ASU in September, but he told the San Jose Mercury News he is a better back entering his 13th game than he was in his third.
"I've got a grasp of the offense," Gaffney said. "I've come to the realization of what we're trying to do each run play, each pass play, and where I fit in."
The ASU defense is also performing at its peak, with standout defensive tackle Will Sutton rounding into form, combining with outside linebacker Chris Young and defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid Carl Bradford for 17.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks over the last month.
If Gaffney can knife through them once again, it could go a long way toward convincing scouts he is more than a plodder falling forward behind a bulldozing front five. Even if he can't, a Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl berth would be a heck of a consolation prize.