This game is supposed to be the one conference game that was a gimme. The Cougars have been the doormat of the PAC-10 for several years now (not that ASU has been much less than that lately). It is Homecoming Week, which gets players, alumni, fans, and fan-alumni all fired up. There will be the great players of the past present, an alumni band pregame show, and tons of excitement and pride for being a Sun Devil. The game should be nothing but a formality before tallying another mark in the win column.
That's how it should be, but for some reason, I am more leery about this game than most other ones. Maybe I'm buying into the gloom that people have cast over the Sun Devils after being embarrassed in Berkeley.
Maybe I'm confused about the Sun Devils. They should have won in Wisconsin, who then clobbered the then number one Ohio State Buckeyes. They could have won against Oregon. But then they went to Cal and took a dump on the field, and promptly let the Bears push them over and rub their faces in it.
Maybe I am just a little worried about the Cougars, who have not looked terrible, having scored 23 and 28 points against Oregon and Stanford, respectively. ASU coach Dennis Erickson even said that "they are a football team that as you watch from the beginning of the season until now is unbelievable." They have only won one game, but it appears that they are leaving behind the doormat status they have held for some time.
Maybe I am fearful of this team overlooking Washington State when USC is just a week away. We know that the Sun Devils are not a good enough team to overlook anyone, but these are college kids.
I shouldn't be worried, as chatter around message boards among die-hard Sun Devil followers are saying that the past few days of practice the team has been going at it harder than they have seen since the spring.
The players know that this is a must-win game. If they want to go to a bowl, barring a possible NCAA waiver allowing them to go with six wins, including two over FCS teams, they can only go down in defeat once more the rest of the season. And in the end, ASU is superior in talent. Barring disaster, the Sun Devils should win decidedly.
But if they lose, hope is gone. The season is over, and the program would be the laughingstock of the conference. Fans might start burning jerseys and wearing paper bags to the games (if they show up at all). There will be thousands willing to foot the bill for a one-way ticket out of town for Dennis Erickson.
In a word, it would be terrible. I shouldn't worry, but I do. I'll root for the Sun Devils, but I don't trust them.