After having not won in Pasadena since 1996, the Devils are in the point of the season at which, for the most part, things are what they are, and wins – in any form or fashion- are the top priority.
Although many of us awoke Sunday with fingernails chewed down to the cuticles, did it really come as much of a surprise that ASU gave us the stress test for four quarters?
To repeat, the most important issue here is that when the clocked showed zeroes, it was the boys in maroon and gold who walked off the field of the Rose Bowl with pitchforks in the air, singing the school fight song as Bruin fans chomped down on a mouthful of sour grapes.
So here we are, still ranked in the nation's top-10, licking our chops in anticipation of the game which at the start of the season was circled in red ink until our wrists turned sore, as we will share our proverbial Thanksgiving table with four-time defending Pac-10 Conference Champion USC one week from Thursday.
Despite the Trojans suffering two losses among its first 10 games after being dubbed as perhaps the best squad in college football history in the preseason by one Pac-10 head coach, this game still symbolizes what it did when we envisioned the possibilities in the preseason; a potential changing of the guard.
Although few expected USC to enter its 11th game of the season with two losses, virtually eliminated from Pac-10 Championship and BCS contention, the magnitude of this meeting has lost little enormity.
Just like the Thanksgiving table surrounded by friends and family talking about old times, each seat in our house will have a rear end in it when the Trojans come to visits, and this game will be ASU's opportunity to take control of the turkey knife and earn an invitation away from the kiddie table and into a seat with the adults.
USC plays the role of the spoiled cousin from California who, for the past few years, has taken the seat at the table that we've had our eye on for years. However, since we've last seen each other, the Devils have shot up in growth and ASU is now the talk of the family gathering and its appetite won't be satisfied with less than a hungry man's meal.
The Devils have played the Trojans to very close outcomes in the past few season, however ASU's dropped both games which were stressful enough to give even the most fit Sun Devil fan a roaring case of heartburn.
The difference between records of 9-1 and 10-1 for ASU is as significant a change in Sun Devil football history, as a victory over the Trojans would potentially be comparable to landmark wins over Nebraska in 1975, USC in 1978 and the Cornhuskers again in 1996, as it will require the Devils to overtake the team that has dominated its conference as soundly over the past five seasons as any in college football.
Defeating the Trojans would set the Devils one win away from very likely earning a BCS game appearance, even if Oregon is to win out and capture the Pac-10 title. What better way to top the 10-win mountain for the first time since the legendary Rose Bowl season of 1996?
We know this team has a heart as big as ASU's student enrollment, even if at times the momentary downfalls make us as frustrated as rising tuition costs. Although the Devils may need to right some wrongs which they have been plagued by in nearly each of its first 10 games, one can't help but think that this college football season still has a few unexpected twists and turns remaining.
Do the Devils want Mommy to continue to give them a measly Thanksgiving portion as they sit beside six- and seven-year-old asthmatic third-cousins, or is this team ready to rip the leg off the Turkey, slam it in some gravy and gobble down the stuffing and cranberry sauce until the belt buckle bursts?
Tuck that napkin into your shirt and grab a plateful, Sun Devil fans; we might be reminiscing on this Thanksgiving at "family" reunions for years to come – but leave a little room left for afterward, because the hated in-laws who we put up with once a year will soon be in town after the Trojans depart.
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.
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