As Lee Corso, the inimitable host of ESPN’s College Game Day every Saturday morning, would say when disputing one of his colleague’s predictions… “Not so fast, my friend.”
Or to paraphrase a famous line from the humorist, Mark Twain… “The reports of ASU’s death have been greatly exaggerated.”
The ASU football team is on life support as it prepares for the final game of the regular season against California. But there is still a faint pulse.
And that analogy could also be applied to the head coach, Dennis Erickson, whose job is on the line after his team has failed to live up to the expectations that excited the fan base when the season began.
The Sun Devils (6-5, 4-4), believe it or not, are still in the hunt for the Pac-12 title – despite losing three straight conference games. And that includes a humiliating 31-27 loss to rival Arizona in front of a disappointed and frustrated home crowd.
Here’s how this weekend would have to play out to put ASU in the Pac-12 championship game:
First, the Sun Devils would have to beat the Golden Bears, which is no gimme since California (6-5) just took No. 9 Stanford to the limit, just missing a major upset by three points in the 31-28 loss.
Then, they have to count on USC (9-2), the No. 1 team in the South Division taking down second-place UCLA (6-5), while Utah (7-4) beats Colorado (2-10).
The Trojans will have their work cut out for them against UCLA, but they should pull that one off. And Utah should have little trouble against Colorado, which just got beat last weekend by UCLA, 45-6.
So, if everything goes ASU’s way, there will be a three-way tie among ASU, UCLA, and Utah. All three teams would close out the season with a 5-4 conference mark, with ASU winning the tie-breaker because the Devils would have the best record within the division.
Should the Sun Devils make it to the championship game, they would face either Stanford, which they haven’t played this year, or Oregon, which beat ASU in mid-October, 41-27.
Stanford (10-1) is currently in first place in the North Division, with an 8-1 conference mark. But the Cardinal have to play Notre Dame (8-3) in the annual rivalry game this weekend. The Irish have won eight of their last nine games, after stumbling out of the starting block by losing their first two games.
Oregon (9-2, 7-1), meanwhile, gets to feast off of 3-8 Oregon State, which is just one rung up from the bottom of the North Division. Lowly Washington State is the only thing keeping them from occupying the cellar.
And besides, the Ducks are in a mean mood after losing by three points to USC last week. They will undoubtedly take out their frustration on Oregon State.
But, whether the Sun Devils face Oregon or Stanford, they will need to recapture the mojo they displayed when they beat USC in the third game of the season. Not perform like they have for the past three games, when their defense has given up an average of more than 500 yards a game.
Bottom line… there is a lot to be decided this weekend.
And that probably includes the fate of the ASU head coach.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)