(AP) — Arizona State's tough loss to UCLA last weekend has added a new urgency to the Sun Devils' game at Washington State on Saturday.
The loss dropped ASU (6-3, 4-2 Pac-12) into a tie with the Bruins for the Pac-12 South lead, and the Sun Devils likely need to win out to have a chance to advance to the league's first championship game.
"Well, their back is pretty much against the wall," coach Dennis Erickson said of his team. "They're very competitive and they'll come back and do what they have to in order to compete."
Washington State (3-6, 1-5) also has its back against the wall, as the Cougars need to win their remaining three games to become bowl-eligible and perhaps save the job of coach Paul Wulff.
"I thought this year we had a chance to go to a bowl game and we still do," Wulff said.
But the Cougars will play without starting quarterback Jeff Tuel, who has been out much of the season with a collarbone injury. Backup Marshall Lobbestael had played well until last weekend's 30-7 loss at California, when the offense sputtered.
The Cougars are in the midst of a five-game losing streak, with four of those games played away from Pullman. This will be only their second game in Pullman since Sept. 10, thanks to a quirky schedule that Wulff called ridiculous.
Equally unusual is the 7:30 p.m. kickoff time that is the latest for a November game in Pullman since at least the 1982 season. The visitors from Arizona will be greeted by temperatures expected to be in the 30s.
"It'll be nippy compared to what it is around here," said Erickson, a former coach at Washington State. "That's why you play at home one year and on the road the next year. Once the game starts all that stuff goes away."
Arizona State has a solid running game behind Cameron Marshall, who ran for a career-high 168 yards against UCLA.
Quarterback Brock Osweiler has thrown for 2,539 yards, with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions so far this season.
"Brock has developed as he's played this year," Erickson said.
A Montana native, Osweiler isn't too worried about the cold weather.
"When you live in Montana and you're playing high school football games in November, you definitely pick up little things to help keep yourself warm," Osweiler said. "It will be fun. Maybe we'll be making snow angels and stuff."
Osweiler also expects a large contingent of family and friends to make the drive to Pullman for the game.
"I really look forward to seeing a lot of people who I haven't seen in quite some time," he said.
Erickson is concerned about the WSU offense, which is still averaging 30 points per game.
"Offensively, they're extremely talented, particularly at the skilled areas," he said. "Marquess Wilson might be as good as a receiver as there is in the league."
Wilson, a sophomore, is just 26 yards shy of a second consecutive 1,000-yard season.
Wulff, who played for Erickson at WSU, said the Arizona State defense is one of the best in the league. But the Sun Devils have been vulnerable to the pass, where they give up 235 yards per game.
If Lobbestael can't get the offense moving, Wulff said freshman Connor Halliday may get some playing time.
Wulff said all the talk about his future can't help but be a distraction for his team.
"We are just trying to get our team ready to play this week," Wulff said.
The decision will ultimately come down to athletic director Bill Moos, Wulff said.
"If I were a Cougar fan, I wouldn't worry about it," Wulff said. "Let the man (Moos) do his job. Let the coaches and players do our job."