Still Plenty on The Line

A lackluster loss its last time out caused Arizona State to cede control of its Rose Bowl destiny.

While the 13th-ranked Sun Devils' Pac-10 title hopes took a hit, they still have a chance to earn their first BCS berth and a trip to Pasadena if they beat archrival Arizona at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Arizona State -7 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 75% of bets for this game have been placed on Arizona State -7 (View College Football bet percentages).

Arizona State (9-2, 6-2) opened the season with eight straight wins and climbed as high as No. 6 in the AP Top 25 and fourth in the BCS standings. Those lofty numbers have disappeared with the Sun Devils losing two of their last three.

The most recent defeat was especially disappointing, a 44-24 home loss to then-No. 11 Southern California on Thanksgiving night. That result dropped Arizona State six spots in the poll and seven spots in the BCS standings to 13th.

The defeat also left the Sun Devils tied with the Trojans atop the Pac-10, with USC holding the tiebreaker.

Despite the costly slump, Arizona State can secure the conference title and a Rose Bowl bid with a win over the Wildcats and a USC loss to UCLA on Saturday. The Sun Devils have not won the Pac-10 since the 1996 season, when they went on to lose to Ohio State 20-17 in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1997.

If Arizona State and USC win Saturday, the Sun Devils could still find their way into the BCS with an invite to the Fiesta Bowl in nearby Glendale. That might depend on whether Missouri or Oklahoma wins the Big 12 title game.

Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter is trying to avoid getting caught up in all the bowl scenarios, though, and is simply focusing on beating Arizona.

"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.''

The Sun Devils have won two straight and six of eight over the Wildcats, who own a 44-35-1 advantage in the series for the Territorial Cup.

In last season's 28-14 win over Arizona, Carpenter was 17-of-25 for 214 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

Carpenter is third in the Pac-10 in yards (2,768) and touchdowns (21), but was under heavy pressure in the loss to USC. He was sacked six times and briefly knocked out of the game with a cut lip, finishing 21-of-30 for 240 yards and an interception.

Carpenter has been sacked 20 times in his last three games, and only two FBS teams - 2-10 Syracuse and 3-9 Notre Dame - have allowed more sacks than the Sun Devils (49).

Arizona State is second in the conference with 33.3 points per game, but had just 10 offensive points through three quarters against the Trojans. The Sun Devils were held to a season-low 259 yards, including a stunning 16 rushing yards on 35 attempts.

"We didn't play very well, obviously, but that's over and done," Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said. "This is a whole different situation for us. Playing the University of Arizona is playing the University of Arizona, it doesn't make any difference. In this game, a rivalry like this that's been going for so many years and has so much tradition, I would be certainly shocked if they didn't come out and play as well as they could."

The Wildcats (5-6, 4-4) certainly did that in their last game, earning one of the biggest wins in the program's history and pulling within a victory of becoming eligible for their first bowl bid since 1998.

Arizona hasn't played since knocking off then-No. 2 Oregon 34-24 on Nov. 15, which gave it a win over a top 10 opponent for the third straight season.

Antoine Cason returned a punt 56 yards for a touchdown and an interception 42 yards for another score, and Mike Thomas caught two TD passes for Arizona to give him 11 on the season.

The Wildcats lost six of their first eight games, but have won three in a row. They haven't won four straight games since Sept. 16-Oct. 14, 2000.

"Our kids are starting to make plays and it turns things in a hurry when people really doubted anything we were doing a month ago,'' Arizona coach Mike Stoops said. "It gets down to confidence and making plays.''

Willie Tuitama completed 21 of 39 passes for 266 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the win over the Ducks. He's thrown for 1,117 yards, 10 TDs and two interceptions during Arizona's winning streak.

Tuitama, second in the conference in yards (3,411) and tied with Washington State's Alex Brink for the Pac-10 lead in touchdowns with 26, missed most of last year's game against the Sun Devils after taking a hit to the head. He finished 6-of-10 for 36 yards and a TD.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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