With their third consecutive loss last Saturday, the Arizona State football team now sits at 5-4 with three game remaining. They are on the road this week against USC, then they host Washington State and close the regular season with Arizona in Tucson.
The fan sentiment has begun to change from hopeful to apathetic, getting that feeling that nothing has changed and that this year's team is just like last year's -- a promising start that ended with loss after loss after loss.
However, there is a very important difference between the two teams. That would be initial expectations.
Last season, loaded with seniors, the team was talking about the Pac-12 Championship and even perhaps a BCS bowl game. It was supposed to be the big build-up year from years of not quite getting all out of their talent.
That disappointment led to the firing of Dennis Erickson and the changing of the guard, as Todd Graham stepped in.
Aside from the typical coaching rhetoric about having championship expectations ( in this case, building up the program to do that eventually), nobody in town believed this team was going to do much.
Then they won some games in impressive fashion and the expectations were raised. They controlled their own destiny in the Pac-12 South division, but then loss three straight.
Fans are upset and rightly so. They should be upset when their team loses. But what we should not do is question the heart of this team.
Said Todd Graham about his players on Monday:
"We've had three tough weeks here but let's get to the end of the season and we'll evaluate where we're at. Just don't give up on us. I can guarantee that there's no give up in our guys. We had our team run yesterday and without any input from me the kids just circled up by themselves and they started talking about the commitment. They talked about recommitting themselves. They talked about competing for a championship, getting this thing back and pulling together. I was very impressed by that because it was not something I did. They were supposed to come over for me to talk to them and they stayed amongst themselves."
Last year's team fell apart and gave up. The Todd Graham Sun Devils might be losing games, but they are not quitting. They didn't quit when Oregon put up 43 points in the first 20 minutes of the game. They shut them down the rest of the way and battled back to make the score respectable. They lost a heartbreaker against UCLA. They just played poorly in the second half of the game last week at Oregon State.
But this team is not quitting and is not like last year's team. When last year was over, there was no hope for the program. It was a mess.
ASU is going to win one, maybe two more games and go to a bowl game. But the program is in so much better shape. There is direction. There is buy-in. There is heart.
Last year they were supposed to do big things. This season, after no expectations to begin, the Devils made us feel they might be able to do big things. They just didn't happen. In the end, did anyone really believe before the start of the season that this was going to be more than a 6-7 win team?
The difference is that this 6-7 win team is in the right direction.
For that reason Sun Devil fans should still be on board.