Preview: Cal at Arizona State
by Denis Brown
October 22, 2007
Dennis Erickson is a two-time national championship-winning coach at the University of Miami. He also has served two separate stints as a NFL head coach. However, most importantly for Arizona State (7-0, 4-0), the Sun Devils have not lost a game since Coach Erickson showed up on campus.
In his first season as Arizona St. head coach, he has transformed the Sun Devils not only into a Pac-10 contender, but a national title contender, as well. Arizona St. is ranked fourth in the latest BCS Standings and they have really begun to catch the eye of people around the country.
Arizona St. will take on California (5-2, 2-2) this Saturday at 10 eastern.
The Golden Bears should be highly motivated. Cal is coming off back-to-back losses to Oregon State and UCLA. The Bears will have their season on the line this Saturday as they cannot afford a third loss in conference. It will be tough for California to win the PAC-10 even if they win the rest of their games. Arizona St., UCLA, Oregon, and USC have all played four conference games with the former two having zero conference losses, and the latter two having one PAC-10 setback. Cal does boast two wins against ranked teams - a 45-31 win over Tennessee at home, and a 31-24 victory over Oregon on the road.
California lost its first game without starting quarterback Nate Longshore who missed the Oregon St. game with a sprained right ankle. Longshore returned last week against UCLA, but he did not have a great game. He completed 22-of-34 pass attempts for 232 yards with three touchdowns, but also threw three interceptions. The final interception by the Bruins iced the game as Alterraun Verner returned the pick for the touchdown that gave UCLA the final win margin of 30-21. Ironically, Cal has been very good on the season in the turnover department, averaging one more takeaway then giveaway per game. Longshore will have to get back on track this week to stop the skid against Arizona St.
The Pac-10 is not normally known for its defense, but Coach Erickson has certainly brought a hard-nosed mentality to the Sun Devils. Arizona St. leads the Pac-10 and ranks fourth in the nation in scoring defense with 15 points allowed per game.
It could be argued however, that the Sun Devils have not played a good team yet. Arizona St. has yet to beat a ranked team, but will have a chance in the next four weeks with games against California, Oregon, and USC. Oregon St. has been the only team to score more then 20 points on the Devils all season, but ASU still managed a 44-32 win.
It will be interesting to see if Arizona St. can keep up its solid play as it enters the toughest part of the schedule. California can’t afford another loss. The Sun Devils will try and take one more step towards being involved in the national championship picture this Saturday at 10 AM eastern.
Denis Brown is an independent contributor to College Football Poll.com.