What a difference a week makes. And for Arizona State, that’s not a good thing. The Sun Devils are about to begin a brutal five-game stretch that includes California, Oregon, USC and Arizona.
What a difference a week makes. And for Arizona State, that’s not a good thing. The Sun Devils were full of confidence and optimism heading into last Saturday’s game against Stanford but were beaten soundly in all phases of the game. Now comes a brutal five-game stretch that includes California, Oregon, USC and Arizona. The Sun Devils still need a pair of wins to become eligible for the postseason, and at this point that challenge seems imposing. Cal and ASU both have two losses in Pac-10 play, but Cal’s have come against conference giants Oregon and USC. The Golden Bears have won three straight games overall and come in averaging 35 points per game. The Sun Devils have slid to ninth in the Pac-10 in total offense after another marginal display last week. Quarterback Danny Sullivan (knee) and running back Dimitri Nance (shoulder) both missed time at the end of the Stanford game, although both have been practicing this week and should be available for the game. Backup quarterback Brock Osweiler is again supposed to get some time, although how much has not been determined.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
• Jahvid Best: The California running back’s name was floated about in Heisman Trophy talk in the beginning of the season. While his production has dropped off slightly since then, he is still arguably the best running back in the Pac-10. Best averages 110.7 yards per game and has scored 11 touchdowns. The Arizona State defense allowed Stanford’s Toby Gerhart to run for more than 100 yards last week, the first time an opposing tailback had topped the century mark. If Best gets that many yards, it doesn’t bode well for ASU’s chances.
• The ASU wide receivers: Kyle Williams and Kerry Taylor have both been battling hamstring injuries lately, and Chris McGaha has been battling the flu, so the wide receiver rotation has been in flux for weeks. If all three play, it will be interesting to see how the playing time is divvied up with the emergence of Gerell Robinson, T.J. Simpson and Jamal Miles in their absence.
• The backfield: Despite fan objections, seniors Danny Sullivan and Dimitri Nance have started all year. If Cal gets out to a lead early, will a change finally be made? There’s a delicate balance between playing to win this year and grooming the younger players, but if the offense continues to struggle, coach Dennis Erickson might not have much of a choice.