A win at Oregon Saturday could have Sun Devils thinking BCS
By Mitch Light
If it were a political race, the networks would already have declared Arizona State the winner of the Pac-12 South. Yes, we are barely into October, but itâs quite clear that the Sun Devils will be playing in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game on Dec. 2 â likely in Palo Alto or Eugene.
Dennis Ericksonâs club is already 3â0 in the league, with wins over USC, Oregon State and Utah. UCLA is the only eligible team â USC canât play in the league title game â in the South with fewer than two losses, but does anyone really consider the Bruins, who have wins over Washington State and Oregon State, to be a legitimate threat? Didnât think so.
The other three teams in the division â Colorado, Utah and Arizona â are a combined 0â9 in the Pac-12.
So there you have it: Arizona State will win the Pac-12 South. Itâs over.
Now, letâs move on to the next issue: Can this team win the entire league and play in a BCS bowl for the first time? The key is hosting the Pac-12 title game. Hereâs how that can happen:
â¢ Arizona State somehow beats the LaMichael James-less Oregon Ducks this weekend in Eugene.
â¢ Arizona State wins the rest of its league games â quite manageable, with Colorado, Arizona and Cal at home and UCLA and Washington State on the road. Note: No Stanford!
â¢ Oregon beats Stanford in Palo Alto on Nov. 12. This is the big component, because even if ASU wins the Pac-12 South with a 9â0 record, an undefeated Stanford team out of the North would be ranked higher and earn the right to host. However, an undefeated ASU team would host over a one-loss Stanford or a one-loss Oregon.
So if you thought that this weekâs game at Oregon was big â and it is, ESPN College GameDay will be on hand â itâs even bigger when you take a look at the long-term ramifications.
Erickson, however, isnât really concerned with any big-picture talk. Heâs far more concerned with the task at hand â beating a very good Oregon team on foreign soil.
âWe have to learn how to go at warp speed,â he said earlier this week. âThey are what they are. They do it week-in and week-out, year-in and year-out since Chip (Kelly) has been there. I donât know if Iâve ever seen a team as fast offensively. Itâs unbelievable watching.â
Erickson believes his team is in the right frame of mind for what figures to be the biggest game for the program since its trip to Eugene in November 2007, when ASU, 8â0 at the time, lost to 7â1 Oregon, 35â23.
Weâre a confident football team,â said the veteran coach. âThey believe in each other. I donât know if you even call it confidence â they have a strong belief in each other and a strong belief that their teammate is going to do the job heâs supposed to do and give the effort heâs supposed to. In the first six football games weâve done that extremely well.â
Arizona State will have to do everything extremely well to win Saturday night.
Around the Pac-12
â¢ Calâs Zach Maynard has completed only 51.4 percent of his passes, the lowest among any of the top 50 quarterbacks in the nation in yards passing per game. All but eight of the top 50 passers have completed at least 60.0 percent of their attempts.
â¢ Oregon has 14 plays from scrimmage of at least 40 yards. No other team in the league has more than eight.
â¢ Utah leads the Pac-12 in turnovers committed (13) and ranks second in turnovers forced (13).
â¢ Washingtonâs Keith Price has thrown at least three touchdowns in each game this season.
â¢ Andrew Luck has only thrown more than one interception in a game only twice in his two-plus years as the starter at Stanford. He was picked off twice against Notre Dame and Oregon last season.
â¢ UCLA is over .500 in league play after three games for the first time since 2007, when Karl Dorrellâs final Bruin team opened with a 4â0 Pac-10 record.
â¢ Arizona has averaged 33 points in its last three losses.
â¢ LaMichael James has four carries of at least 40 yards. Only one other player in the league has more than one â USCâs Curtis McNeal has two.