Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE
Back-to-back conference losses has the Arizona State fanbase already racing to hit the panic button. But before everyone tars and feathers Todd Graham, let's take a step back and reassess the situation.
Remember when everything was all rainbows and lollipops in the land of the Sun Devils as the Arizona State football team sat atop the Pac-12 South with an overall record of 5-1 two weeks ago?
Yeah, well I guess all it took was two conference losses for the maroon and gold faithful to drain the confidence they built up in Todd Graham and company from ASU's hot start.
Looks like Arizona is still the "what have you done for me lately?" capital of the world, folks.
Before you upgrade your cute, three-fingered hand gesture for a literal torch and pitchfork, I'd invite you to take a step back and reanalyze the situation; by no means are the Arizona State Sun Devils dead in the Pac-12 South waters.
The Devils are technically third in the division since the Trojans (4-2) have played one more conference game than ASU and UCLA has the tiebreaker with both teams sitting at 3-2. But if you closely examine the schedules for all three teams, you'd realize the Devils still have a very good chance to represent the South in the Pac-12 Championship.
Arizona State is about to begin a treacherous road trip with two ranked conference foes on tap in the forms of Oregon State and USC. While both these games should be treated with the same amount preparatory tender, love and care, the Devils need a win against the Trojans more than anything.
It's probably safe to say that Oregon will hand USC their third conference loss of the season when the powerhouses meet in Los Angeles next weekend. This will obviously put the Trojans in motivation by desperation mode when ASU heads into town but that could be both a blessing and a curse for a team that's played as sloppy as USC has lately.
Even if the the Devils fall to Oregon State, who looked anything but menacing last Saturday against Washington, a win over the Trojans would essentially give Arizona State a two-game lead over USC due to the tiebreaker. Conversely, a loss to the Trojans would effectively put an end to ASU's season as the Trojans would own a two-game lead of their own over the Devils (assuming Arizona State loses to OSU).
As for UCLA, the Bruins undoubtedly have the most difficult remaining conference schedule of the entire division with three games against ranked Pac-12 opponents and a road trip to Washington State. If UCLA goes 2-2 over that span (and they could easily go 1-3), the Devils will basically control their own destiny and be able to lose one of their final four games (preferable OSU or Washington State).
Yes, there are some other factors in play like a quality Arizona team who could make a run of their own. But as long as ASU handles their business against Washington State and brings a motivated defense to the USC and Arizona games, they still have as good of a chance as anybody.
If anything, the events of the past few weeks have made the Pac-12 South even more wide open for a dark horse like the Devils to step up and steal it. No, the defense looked didn't look ready to rise to the challenge when the Bruins marched down the field on them to set up that game-winning field goal Saturday afternoon. But that could change instantaneously with the return of one Mr. Will Sutton (an occurrence that reportedly could happen as soon as this weekend against Oregon State).
All I'm saying is why give up hope at the first sign of adversity when the fans weren't even expecting to be in this position in the first place? The least we can do to repay Graham, Taylor Kelly and all the other pleasant surprises of this Sun Devils team is to stick around and see this one through with some unwavering support. And if you're not on board, you know where
Tucson the door is.