BCS Standings 2011: Bowl Outlook for Arizona State Football
It speaks volumes about the progress that the Arizona State Sun Devils have made that going into their bye week at 5-2 with a 3-1 conference record is viewed by many in their fanbase as a disappointment.
Even after their mistake-filled loss on Saturday night, ASU is still ranked in both the AP (tied for No. 24) and USA Today Coaches Poll (No. 25). More importantly, they are in total control of the Pac-12 South division after their wins over Utah and USC. Their schedule after the bye features five games in which ASU should be a strong favorite in each.
All of this success points to the Sun Devils ending their school-record three-season bowl drought.
The Sun Devils did not make the Top 25 in the first release of the BCS rankings, although such standings really do not take on real importance until November.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some possible bowl destinations for ASU, in ascending order to their best-case scenario.
Disappointing: The Holiday or Sun Bowls
Many across the nation considered the South division race over after ASU's decisive 35-14 win over Utah on Oct. 8. With Utah, Colorado and Arizona a combined 0-10 in conference play, USC ineligible and UCLA in disarray, the Sun Devils were more than primed to take home the inaugural division crown.
However, UCLA is hanging around. Despite their uneven season and generally sub-par play at quarterback, the Bruins are 3-3 overall but more importantly only have one conference loss, the same as the Sun Devils.
With a manageable schedule, the Bruins aren't yet dead in the South race. If they should be able to pull the upset over Arizona State at home on Nov. 5 and avoid stumbling elsewhere, they could steal the South crown.
Doing so would relegate the Sun Devils to perhaps the fourth or even fifth spot in conference, depending on whether Washington can keep up their hot start (currently 5-1, but they have yet to play either Stanford or Oregon).
It's a strong possibility that both Stanford and Oregon will secure BCS berths, which means...
If the Huskies are able to maintain most of their momentum, the Sun Devils would fall to the fifth spot, which would result in a berth to the Sun Bowl on New Year's Eve to face the fourth-place finisher in the ACC.
However, should the Huskies falter in their matchups against the twin titans in the North, ASU would head to the Holiday Bowl, which takes the Pac-12's third team and pits them against the fifth-ranked team from the Big 12.
Probable: The Alamo Bowl
This could very well be ASU's most probable destination.
Both Oregon and Stanford are truly elite teams, and barring a completely unforeseen collapse, the loser of their Nov. 12 game, the de facto North division title game, still has an very strong chance at a one-loss regular season and securing an at-large BCS berth.
That would free up the Alamo Bowl slot, designated for the second place team in the Pac-12, to ASU, should they win the South yet fall in the title game.
Remote: The Fiesta Bowl
Now granted this one is one that's firmly on the side of improbable, but yet it is still a remote possibility and would be the second best destination for the Sun Devils.
Now, this would take a lot of help in order to happen.
First off, ASU would win the have to run the table and win the South, a likely possibility, yet fall to the North champion in the conference title game.
Then, many of the many other powers across the country would need to struggle in the coming weeks, hurting their BCS ranking and allowing ASU to creep into the lower end of BCS eligibility thanks to their 10-win season.
They then would be an attractive option to the hometown Fiesta Bowl, where the Devils have played six times before, winning five times.
However, the Sun Devils' best BCS option is of course...
Best Case: The Rose Bowl
As the Sun Devils have proven over the last two seasons, they are capable of playing with the elite teams on the nation.
They lost a thriller to Stanford 17-13 last season and arguably should have beat Oregon in both of their last two meetings had it not been for avoidable self-inflicted mistakes.
Barring a unforeseen series of losses by the eventual North division champion, ASU will be going on the road for the first Pac-12 Championship game, where they will likely be a moderate underdog.
However, should they manage to pull off the upset, they would then win the Pac-12 and secure a berth in "the Granddaddy of them all," the Rose Bowl, for the third time in school history.