• Win all three non-conference games – check. • Win a Pac-10 game in the state of California – check • Get ASU back into the national rankings – check • Sell out Sun Devil Stadium – check times two (very likely times three) • Defeat a nationally ranked team – check • Attract and attain highly-touted recruits – check • Guide ASU to a Pac-10 Championship and a BCS game appearance - ….?
The snowball effect of national attention that the Sun Devils have earned is picking up steam with every passing week, as fans are flocking inside Sun Devil Stadium, recruits are wasting no time in pledging their future services to ASU, and national media are becoming more and more aware of the ability and potential of Sun Devil football.
Seemingly almost too good to be true, like every trip to Frank Kush Field is surreal, the tremendous success surrounding Sun Devil football is additionally impressive (and nearly unbelievable) considering the state of affairs merely one year ago.
On a late November weekend last season, ASU hosted 14 recruits as the Devils faced UCLA, and all things considered, the situation could not have panned out worse. In addition to suffering a 24-12 loss to the Bruins, fed-up Sun Devils fans exited the stadium in a chorus of boos and derogatory chants against then-head coach Dirk Koetter. The end result: only three of the 14 visitors went on to sign with ASU (James Brooks, Jonathan Clark and Michael Marcisz), while Brooks was the only of the three to commit to ASU who hadn't already pledged to the Devils prior to that weekend. It perhaps marked the turning point at which many observers were certain that a shake up was necessary and imminent, but the main question was who could salvage the program back to the fans' collective level of expectation.
Thankfully, on Saturday those memories were made very distant, as a Sun Devil Stadium crowd, filled to the brim, rockin' and rollin' in support of Erickson and his squad, who hosted 10 recruits, after seven prospects officially, visited Tempe two weeks prior during ASU's game versus Washington. The impact of a 31-20 victory over No. 18 California was felt widely and quickly, as by the time most Sun Devil fans were eating lunch Sunday, three new verbal commitments had been made to ASU, including ones from wide receiver Kemonte Bateman, defensive back Clint Floyd and offensive lineman Andrew Sampson. Before all is said and done, one can only assume that a greater amount of those who have officially visited ASU will ultimately make it their college destination. Word is out about Sun Devil football, and it's becoming the hottest ticket in town that everyone wants to be a part of.
The best part about the situation is that the optimism and excitement is far from limited to acquiring blue-chip talent to suit up in maroon and gold for 2008 and beyond; the Devils are building steam at just the right time and are progressively making their way toward a legitimate battle for the 2007 Pac-10 Conference Championship – and maybe more.
Crunch time is officially in session, and so far so good for our beloved Devils. National publications and prognosticators called out the California game as that which would expose the Sun Devils; as a game that would kick-start ASU's season-ending flop and shotgun the Devils from national prestige.
Well, thus far, they're wrong.
One can't help but feel that ASU is going to be subject to doubt and speculation week-in and week-out, but if the Devils attend to business between the hash marks as they have been, the bandwagon will add a few more seats.
The expectations are rising every week, and perhaps the Devils' most daunting task awaits this Saturday in Eugene, Ore., with the college football world watching as ESPN's Game Day staff will be in attendance, the first time the Sun Devils have been awarded such coverage since October of 2005 when No. 1 USC came to Tempe to face ASU.
ASU has won during each of its past two trips to Eugene, including a 45-42 upset of the No. 6 Ducks in 2002. Also, the Sun Devils will be looking to avenge one of the ugliest, most poorly played games in recent ASU history; last season's 48-13 loss in Tempe.
The Pac-10 Conference is unpredictable beast this season, as things have turned out very dissimilar to how they were originally predicted to start the 2007 season.
In comparing ASU to its intra-league competition, the Devils handed California its third conference loss, likely eliminating them from Pac-10 title competition. Normally dominant USC is in a disadvantageous position after it's second league loss to Oregon Saturday, while UCLA was upset by Washington State for the Bruins' first Pac-10 loss, however UCLA faces a tremendously challenging final stretch – including a visit from the red (or should it be maroon) hot Sun Devils.
When you do the math, all signs point toward this Saturday as what separates the Sun Devils from an excellent season and a truly legendary one. The end results remain to be seen throughout the remainder of the league; however ASU is the only team in the Pac-10 – and one of few in the nation – who can control its own destiny.
A Pac-10 championship is within sight, and a win at Autzen Stadium will give the Sun Devils a feel of something they haven't experienced in over a decade, and only twice in school history.
Long-time Sun Devil fans have begged for a season to duplicate the success of ASU's 1996 squad, and a win Saturday in Eugene will bring the football legacies of Erickson, Carpenter, James and Pollak even closer to those of Snyder, Plummer, Tillman and Roque.
Joe Healey is a 2006 graduate of Arizona State University and will be a guest contributor to Devils Digest during the 2007 football season. He currently writes for ASU's Maroon and Gold Illustrated and his work has also been featured in Sun Devil football media guides and other official team publications.