Friday, November 23, 2007

Beat the Rats

And so it all comes down to this. Yet again, the game against CGU ("Closing the Gap Univ") will define the season. With a win over the Rats, we can declare this season an unqualified success. Lose, and there will always be a bitter aftertaste to an otherwise good season.

What's impossible to know right now is whether the beating we took from the Trojans will impact this game. Hopefully the 9 day gap will give the kids time to recover.


There is little need for an in-depth analysis of the Thanksgiving day loss to USC. When the team with the superior talent plays its "A" game, it usually wins. As much as people like to criticize the "star" ratings of the recruiting services, USC demonstrated what a team full of 4-star and 5-star recruits looks like. Could ASU have played better or done some things differently to pull of the upset? Sure. But if we played that game 10 times, USC would win at least 8 of the games.

The main thing that this game proved is how insane USC's loss to Stanford was. If they had won that game, they would be right at the top of the National Championship conversation.

I don't see this game as a setback for the program. "Reality check" would be a better term. We can't get to the next level until we get more studs on the roster. What happens next February on signing day will have far more impact on the program than what happened on Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Beauty and the Beast

I cannot recall a more bipolar display by a unit than the performance of the Devils' special teams in the win over UCLA.

First, the good. Thomas Weber was nearly perfect: his long field goal at the end of the first half changed the momentum of the game, and
he pinned the Bruins deep on several punts. Normally I would never say this about a kicker, but Weber deserves serious consideration as ASU's MVP this season.

However, the game was kept close by two lapses: a punt return all the way back to the 1 yards line, and a kickoff return for a TD. Hard to tell from the TV coverage exactly what caused the meltdown -- you can't really blame poor tackling when the returners weren't even getting hit!

Never apologize for winning ugly

Some will be upset with the manner of the win, but a win is a win, especially when it's a conference road game. Take away the two long Bruin kick returns, and the score would not have been close, thanks to another outstanding effort by the D. Let's review: The Devils are 9-1, 3-0 versus teams from California, 3-1 in conference road games, in control of our own destiny for the conference championship. You couldn't really ask for more from a first-year head coach, could you?

We now get 12 days to heal before the Thanksgiving night game versus the Trojans. Ohio State's loss gives Oregon a good chance of finishing in the top 2 of the BCS standings should they win out, giving the Devils a clear path back to the Rose Bowl should we finish 11-1.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Bowl scenarios

Despite the loss at Oregon, the Devils can still have a "special" season. A BCS Bowl is still well within reach. There are multiple scenarios where ASU can make a BCS game, but all require the Devils to win out and finish 11-1.

Scenario 1: Oregon wins out and goes to the BCS National Championship game. If Oregon ends the season ranked #1 or #2 in the BCS standings and plays in the National Championship game, the Rose Bowl will have to select an at-large team to fill its spot (or two, if Ohio State is also in the National Championship game). The Rose Bowl is not required to select a Pac-10 team in this circumstance, but it probably would pick the Devils.

Scenario 2: Oregon wins out and goes to the Rose Bowl. If Oregon ends the season 11-1 but ranked #3 or lower, it will go to the Rose Bowl. ASU and Oregon would be co-champions of the Pac-10, but Oregon would get the Rose Bowl berth based on the head-to-head victory. One of the other BCS Bowls, most likely the Fiesta, would probably pick the Devils.

Scenario 3: Oregon loses another game. This would leave the Devils as undisputed Pac-10 champions and in the Rose Bowl.

Coaching ups and downs

The game at Oregon proved yet again how good this coaching staff is. After giving up 21 points on the Ducks' first three drives, ASU surrendered just 14 points the rest of the game. Meanwhile, I think most fans would agree that the problems on offense were mostly due to execution, not coaching.

However, two incidents cause concern. First, the clock (mis)management at the end of the first half. We should have been able to take two shots to the end zone before attempting a field goal. Second, why didn't we go for two after getting to within 13 points (35-22)? This is one of those "no brainer" decisions -- a two-point conversion would have given us the chance to tie with a field goal and TD, while failing to convert wouldn't have made any difference (12 and 13 points both require two TDs).

I don't want to make a big deal out of this -- I'm still thankful that DE is our coach -- but I hope both issues are addressed in this week's press conferences.

In depth analysis: Oregon just a little better

No need for me to write much this morning, because Paola Boivin's column really sums things up nicely.

The verdict is in, and the national championship is out. All charges of fraud against Arizona State should be dropped.

Elsewhere in the Republic, the headline writers appear to be confused. One article claims that the Sun Devils can't engineer rally while another tells us that Oregon withstands ASU rally. Did we rally or not? In my humble opinion, we really didn't. If I was an Oregon fan, I would have been concerned a couple of times, but I'd never have felt that the game was slipping out of control.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Nice column on Lisa Love by Bill Dwyre in the LA Times today.

"Arizona State is a dream opportunity, a glorious project," she says.

It's GameDay!

No East coast bias this week -- the eyes of the nation are on us!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Keegan Herring is the man!

For those who missed the feature on last week's GameDay, this puts this week's game into its proper perspective. In the world of college football, it means everything; in the real world, it means nothing.