Looking ahead to ASU

THE TIMING EITHER couldn't be worse, or it couldn't be better, for Washington State with talented and desperate Arizona State coming to Pullman this week.

Had ASU beaten UCLA last Saturday, the Sun Devils could have put the rest of the season on cruise control as they prepare for the Pac-12 Championship game. Instead, the Sun Devils kicked away victory in a 29-28 loss to the Bruins in the Rose Bowl, allowing UCLA to control its destiny in the Pac-12 South.

Arizona State can't do a thing if UCLA wins out, as the Bruins hold the tiebreaker. Forget about the Trojans' 56-48 triple overtime loss to Stanford as their bowl. If UCLA has a Pac-12 title at stake, this is USC's bowl game.

Which means Arizona State still has reason to show up and win its remaining games, starting Saturday against Washington State. The Cougars are still alive for a bowl berth, but the Cougs have lost their past five games – and now they have to win their last three in a row to get to 6-6.

Their backs are against the wall. Do they come out fighting? There are now no more tomorrows if the Cougs want to get to a bowl game. Will that make a difference -- how badly do they want it? Just as big a question on the minds of most WSU fans is the future of coach Paul Wulff.

You know where I stand here. I've been writing for weeks that Wulff ought to get a shot to coach the team in 2012. But it's getting harder to see that happening after falling to 3-6.

I think Wulff has done a good job putting this program back together. But some believe he's not the closer the Cougars need. The type of coach capable of taking decent talent and developing a team into a consistent performer and, eventually, a winner.

Wulff was dealt a bad hand this season when quarterback Jeff Tuel was all but lost for the season. Maybe a healthy Tuel makes the difference this season.

Most fans might be able to swallow 3-6 if eight of the nine games were highly competitive. But since booting away a win at UCLA on Oct. 8, the Cougars have lost by margins of 30, 23, 15 and 23 points. Of the past four games, WSU's best performances came against Top 10 teams in Stanford and Oregon. The Cougars weren't competitive against Oregon State and California, two teams that may not even go bowling in 2011.

Wulff would seem to need a major turnaround these last three weeks, starting with ASU.

We know what Arizona State's likely mindset will be Saturday. The Cougs?

The kickoff: Arizona State (6-3, 4-2) at Washington State (3-6, 1-5), 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Martin Stadium, and televised by Versus.

Odds: Arizona State is a 13-point favorite.

The series: The Sun Devils have won seven consecutive games over WSU, including a 42-0 win last year in Tempe. The Cougars' last win in the series was a 34-19 victory in 2003 at Martin Stadium. Arizona State leads the 37-game series 24-11-2.

Familiar faces: Arizona State defensive tackle Bo Moos is Bill's son. In addition, two Washington natives are on the ASU roster in freshmen Alex Bykovskiy (tight end, Federal Way) and Taylor Kamotomo (defensive lineman, Spokane). A player with relationship to WSU is senior receiver Aaron Pflugrad, whose father Robin is a former WSU assistant coach and currently the head coach at Montana. Aaron played his first three years of high school ball in Pullman.

ASU's coaching staff has significant ties to Washington State. Head coach Dennis Erickson once was WSU's head coach, from 1987-88, earning Pac-10 coach of the year honors in 1988. Defensive coordinator Craig Bray was a WSU assistant during two eras, with Erickson in 1987-88, and as part of Mike Price's staff from 1994-99. Wide receivers coach Steve Broussard is a former star running back with the Cougars, as well an assistant coach (2007-09). Offensive line coach Gregg Smith was part of Erickson's WSU staff. Bo Moos, a d-tackle with ASU, is the son of Washington State AD Bill Moos.

Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel

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