|With trip to Washington State, schedule remains soft for Dennis Erickson's No. 18 Sun Devils|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 01 October 2007 13:44|
As higher-rated teams tumbled, the Sun Devils jumped five spots in the latest Associated Press rankings after pounding beleaguered Stanford 41-3.
It's hard to know if the Sun Devils (5-0, 2-0 Pac-10) are as strong as their rating would indicate. ASU's schedule ranks 87th in the latest NCAA statistics.
Only one of the Sun Devils' first five opponents - Colorado - has defeated a team from a Bowl Championship Series conference. And the Sun Devils' first four conference opponents are a combined 0-9 in Pac-10 play.
That's why new coach Dennis Erickson isn't making any bold statements about how far his team has come.
``Obviously, for this football team, every week is a new week,'' Erickson said Monday at his weekly campus news conference. ``We just have to continue to improve and get better. Our schedule gets harder and harder as we get into it.''
It won't get that much harder this week. ASU visits Washington State (2-3, 0-2 Pac-10), which has been outscored 137-55 in three games against BCS-level opponents while defeating San Diego State and Idaho. The Cougars are coming off a 48-20 loss at Arizona, which had not defeated a major-college opponent.
Arizona State, which plays Washington in Tempe on Oct. 13, figures to be 7-0 when it hosts No. 3 California on Oct. 27.
Of course, Erickson won't say that. Erickson, who coached at Washington State in 1987 and 1988, said this weekend's trip to Pullman will be his team's toughest test to date.
``It's a good place to play when you're the coach at Washington State, and it's not a good place to play when you're not, so I've been on both sides,'' said Erickson, who later took Oregon State to 35,117-seat Martin Stadium.
``Their students are pretty tough on you,'' Erickson said. ``It's a very boisterous crowd, very into it.''
ASU has been a poor road team in recent years, especially in the Pac-10. The Sun Devils haven't posted a winning conference road record since 1997, when they went 3-1.
But the Sun Devils hope their easy victory in Stanford Stadium may signal an end to their road woes. ASU snapped a 14-game game losing streak against the Pac-10 in California - a skid that was hard to take for a school that recruits heavily in that state. ASU's last win over a Pac-10 team in California came at USC in 1999.
``To win in California for the first time, obviously I hope it's not the last, but it was a good win for us, puts us where we're at,'' Erickson said.
Facing a Stanford team that had conceded 100 points in its first two Pac-10 games, ASU struggled to move the ball in the first half. ASU had given up five sacks and managed only a pair of field goals before Rudy Carpenter threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to Rudy Burgess late in the second quarter.
Omar Bolden returned an interception for a score on the next play from scrimmage, and the Sun Devils were never threatened the rest of the way.
The offense has been inconsistent for much of this year. But ASU's defense, a trouble spot in recent years, seems to improve every week.
Defense was one of Erickson's priorities when he replaced offense-oriented Dirk Koetter, who was fired with two years remaining on his contract. So far, Erickson's emphasis on stopping other teams appears to be paying off.
ASU leads the Pac-10 in scoring defense, giving up 13 points per game, and it is second to USC in total defense, allowing 278.2 yards per game.
``Mentally we're playing a lot better,'' Erickson said. ``We're not making near the mistakes that we made early in the year, coverage-wise and gaps and things like that. The longer we play this defense, the better we get.''