Arizona State is stuck in a little bit of a slump, to say the least. And, unfortunately, the Sun Devils will receive no relief this weekend with the USC Trojans coming to Tempe, following one of their worst performances of all time in Eugene last Saturday.
The Sun Devils know that they will receive the best effort that Southern California has to offer this week, and Dennis Erickson's squad will be looking to break their losing streak of two games this Saturday. Obviously something has to give in this matchup.
Arizona State gave a great effort last Saturday versus California, maybe enough to win the game, but effort did not earn a tough hard fought game even in that contest as the Sun Devils fell 23-21 to the Golden Bears.
However, the performance was not all bad for ASU. The offense showed some signs of life. Yes, you have heard that line before, but the Sun Devils need to show that they can compete from the first whistle to the final gun of the contest. That has certainly not been the case this season in their tough games in the Pac-10. Heck, ASU has not put together a complete performance since their opening two nonconference games against Idaho State and Louisiana-Monroe. And those opponents are certainly not Pacific Ten conference caliber opponents.
And as I said, their season does not get any easier from here on out, especially with desperation clearly there, to receive bowl eligibility. The Sun Devils need to win two more games to get to six wins to be bowl eligible, and their remaining opponents are USC, at Oregon, at UCLA, and home against improved and high flying in-state rival Arizona.
But first comes first, USC comes to Sun Devil Stadium looking to right their ship, as the same with Arizona State as well. Neither team is playing well at this critical point of the season, but one team is going to have to win the game.
Erickson's squad is pretty beat up right now too. Starting running back Dimitri Nance is still nursing a shoulder injury that kept him out of the California game, senior center Thomas Altieri will miss a second straight start with a knee injury, cornerback Omar Bolden has been limited in practice now for nearly five weeks, and backup cornerback La Quan Lewis suffered an ankle injury in practice on Tuesday. So, the Sun Devils might be wearing maroon and gold, but they might as well be wearing red cross uniforms on Saturday.
But at practice this week, the Sun Devils have practice with a newfound passion, knowing what is at stake to salvage the season, and find some success and strong points out of this long season.
The offense has looked a lot sharper in practice, with the offensive line musical chairs as of late. True freshman Cameron Marshall has provided a spark and consistency in the running game for ASU in the coming weeks. The Sun Devils have had trouble with fumbles, penalties, and general miscues and mistakes on offense this season. Erickson will have to find a way to establish the run against USC, not to the extent of Oregon last weekend, but enough to open up holes in play action passes to open up deep threats such as Kyle Williams and Chris McGaha.
The Sun Devils passing attack did find some success against the aggressive coverage schemes of California last week, as Danny Sullivan and Kyle Williams hooked up for a 80 yard touchdown pass. But the Sun Devils have to search for more big plays this weekend versus the Trojans to be successful.
Everyone knows that Pete Carroll is going to have his Trojans ready for this contest, and the Sun Devils are going to come into the contest trying to scrap and claw a crucial upset victory at home to generate some momentum heading into the final stretch of the season. Who will emerge victorious? Well, all signs point to USC as Arizona State has struggled against top tier opponents all season, but you never know what can happen once the ball is kicked off.