According to AZ Central's Doug Haller, in the last 37 years, the Arizona State Sun Devils have defeated their in-state rivals, the Arizona Wildcats, and won their bowl game just three times. Those three times were in 1975, 1978 and 2005. The 2012 Sun Devils have a chance to be the fourth team in recent history to pull this off as they defeated the Wildcats by a score of 41-34 to cap off the regular season.
First-year head coach Todd Graham made up for a four-game losing streak that took the Sun Devils out of PAC-12 South contention by winning the last two games of the season, including the win over the Wildcats, which made them bowl eligible. On Saturday, they're set to face the Navy Midshipmen in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, where they can possible end a promising season with a bowl win:
"It's a giant step for our program," Graham said of the opportunity. "I mean, eight wins. That's a heck of a first year, and it takes us to the next level. Expectations change. I think next year we're facing probably the toughest schedule in the nation."
Navy has won seven of their last eight games, though, and stand in between ASU and a bowl victory. If ASU wins, they'll do something no Sun Devils team has done since 1978: finish a season with three straight wins.
ESPN analyst Brian Griese, who will be calling the game, believes that the deciding factory will be how well ASU deals with the option that Navy famously runs:
"There's only one key to this game,'' he said. "How does Arizona State defensively handle the option? Because it's new for them, and if you don't handle it the right away, if you don't play your keys, if you just chase the football and continue to be the defense you've been and you don't adjust, then you will give up big plays."
This will be the last game for 17 seniors, none of whom have won a bowl game in their careers at ASU. The Sun Devils have loftier goals in 2012 than a berth in the Fight Hunger Bowl, but they feel that they're leaving the team better than it was when they arrived. Senior linebacker Brandon Magee started as a true freshman and missed last year's bowl game loss to Boise State due to an Achilles injury. He has never played in a bowl game and he simply stated, "We better win this game. There is no other option."