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 TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson chuckled when someone suggested that his performance against arch rival Arizona might ``make or break'' his career.
``My career's been broken a lot of times,'' said Erickson, who has coached six different schools and two NFL teams. ``Go ahead and break it again. It's been broken so many damn times, I don't even care.''
Saturday's Territorial Cup showdown with Arizona isn't going to make or break Erickson, who has a five-year contract and has exceeded expectations in his first year at ASU. But it could make or break Arizona State's bowl aspirations.
The 13th-ranked Sun Devils ceded control of their Rose Bowl destiny in an embarrassing 44-24 loss to Southern California on Thanksgiving night in Sun Devil Stadium. But while their Pac-10 title hopes took a heavy hit, the Sun Devils (9-2, 6-2 Pac-10) can still qualify for their first Bowl Championship Series berth with a victory over Arizona.
An ASU victory, coupled with a USC loss to UCLA, would give the Sun Devils their third Pac-10 title and a slot in the Rose Bowl.
If ASU and USC win, Arizona State could draw a berth in the Fiesta Bowl in nearby Glendale. That might depend on whether Missouri or Oklahoma wins the Big 12 title game.
If Mizzou wins, the Tigers would go to the BCS title game, and the Fiesta would be allowed to replace the Big 12 champs with an at-large selection, possibly ASU. If OU wins, the Sooners would go to the Fiesta as Big 12 champs. ASU could still go to the Fiesta, but the bowl might opt to match OU and 11-1 Kansas, who didn't play this year in the Big 12.
Georgia is also on the Fiesta's radar screen.
Of course, the Sun Devils' BCS aspirations will evaporate with a loss to Arizona (5-6, 4-4 Pac-10). That would send them to the Holiday Bowl, at best, and they could drop as far as the Sun Bowl.
Erickson said he wouldn't spend much time detailing the scenarios with his players this week.
``I don't really understand the scenarios myself, to be very honest with you,'' Erickson said Monday at his weekly campus news conference. ``It doesn't make any difference what bowl game we go to. That doesn't make any difference. This (game against Arizona) is way more important than any bowl we can go to, any bowl game we can play in, so our focus is totally on this and whatever happens, happens.''
Quarterback Rudy Carpenter knows who to root for this weekend - UCLA and Missouri - but he's not worrying about where the Sun Devils fit in the numerous bowl projections circulating in the media.
``We are just trying to win as many games as we can,'' Carpenter said. ``I don't think we are really looking at the big bowl scenarios because we can't really control any of that.''
Carpenter still had a mark on his lower lip on Monday, four days after he was sacked six times by the Trojans. Carpenter left the game briefly while trainers patched up his mouth, which began bleeding after one particularly vicious hit.
``I feel like a million bucks,'' Carpenter said.
Only two of 119 major-college teams - 2-10 Syracuse and 3-9 Notre Dame - have allowed more sacks than the Sun Devils. ASU will need to do a better job of protecting Carpenter against an Arizona defense that averages 2.27 sacks per game, 46th in the nation.
It's not a good time to face Arizona. The Wildcats stumbled out of the gate, losing six of their first eight games, including home games against New Mexico and Stanford. But Arizona has bounced back to win three in a row, tied with USC for the longest streak in the Pac-10.
Arizona needs a victory to become eligible for its first bowl bid since 1998.
Erickson announced on Friday that his players would not be available to the media in the week leading up to the Arizona game. He changed his mind over the weekend, and on Monday he said he didn't want to penalize reporters who had covered the team all season.
``I'm not scared about somebody saying something or anything like that,'' he said. ``I'm beyond that. Once it's kicked off, it doesn't make any difference anyway.''

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