Quarterback Steven Threet #14 of the Arizona State Sun Devils throws a pass against the Stanford Cardinal at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Despite a 6-6 season and little improvement over the previous year, there's some good vibrations surrounding ASU as we look forward to the 2011 football season.
As an Arizona State University alum, I naturally feel a strong sense of pride for the school I attended.
But even pride makes it difficult to enjoy some of the football we've been subjected to for the past three seasons. The team has gone 15-21 in the past three years after a rousing 10-3 campaign in 2007. We haven't been invited to a bowl since '07. The wins have been ugly, the losses heartbreaking.
2010 was different, though. Despite finishing 6-6 and not qualifying for a bowl game due to our schedule, there were many reasons for optimism. There was only one game (a 50-17 shellacking in Berkeley at the hands of California) that the Sun Devils didn't have a legitimate shot at victory.
ASU played three teams that played in BCS bowls this season (Wisconsin, Oregon, and Stanford). All three of those games came down to the fourth quarter. Wisconsin escaped by one point thanks to a blocked extra point with four minutes to go, and Stanford's Owen Marecic stuffed in a touchdown with five minutes left to secure a 17-13 victory in Tempe.
It was a season of "close but no cigar" for the young ASU squad. A season full of tailgating and camaraderie in Lot 59 and beyond. A season of promise and anticipation for what could be an interesting 2011. Steven Threet and Brock Osweiler will be back to compete for the starting quarterback position. The highly regarded Missouri Tigers will come to Tempe in September, and we are slated for road contests in new locales (Illinois Fighting Illini, Utah Utes).
Season tickets are reasonably priced; in 2010, you could pay $99 per seat for the entire year. With seven home games on the docket for 2011, paying that price would cost approximately $14.14 per game, per person. Completely reasonable, and the potential for victories and celebrations before and after (tailgating, carrying the goalpost down Mill Avenue after we win the Pac-12 Championship) nearly guarantee a worthwhile purchase.
Now is the time for the Phoenix metropolitan area to get behind their local university. This team plays in front of half-empty stadiums far too often, and a packed house full of rowdy, passionate fans would improve both the product on the field and the recruiting effort put forth by coach Dennis Erickson. Can't afford the high cost of gas? Take the light rail! Carpool with other ASU fans! But don't stay home, not this time.
The Territorial Cup is back where it belongs, and our team peaked when it mattered. Going into 2011, the Sun Devils deserve the benefit of the doubt: it's possible that they will be ranked when the season kicks off in early September against UC Davis. I'll be out there in the sun, soaking up the promise of a new day for ASU football. Even if they come up short, we still have 2012.