It was fun while it lasted, but ASU’s chances of reaching the Pac-12 championship have gone from crystal clear to convoluted.
With the heart-wrenching 45-43 loss to UCLA on Saturday the Sun Devils (5-3 overall, 3-2 Pac 12) accumulated their second straight conference loss. The loss also proved that the excitement surrounding the team’s 5-1 start was indeed just hype.
Two weeks ago fans were predicting a possible upset over powerhouse third ranked Oregon, but now fans have come to realize the painful truth that ASU may not be as good as people think.
The Oregon game embarrassingly proved that the Sun Devils cannot hang with elite teams. However, the result of the game had no significance in the team’s chances of reaching the Pac-12 championship. Saturday’s game was the real wake up call.
Once again, the ASU defense could not contain the running game, as Bruin running back Jonathan Franklin lit up the defense for 164 yards and two TDs. But it was the aerial game that hurt ASU the most. ASU came into the game ranked No. 1 in pass defense in the Pac 12, but UCLA QB Brett Hundley was extremely effective throwing for 274 yards and four TDs. With the game on the line, Hundley meticulously orchestrated the Bruin offense down the field by completing four of five passes for 40 yards to get his team into field goal range. Bruins kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn kicked the game winning 33-yard field goal as time expired and ASU’s Pac-12 aspirations expired as well.
The rest of the schedule only gets worse for the Sun Devils. They play at No. 11 Oregon State, at No. 17 USC, home against Washington State, and at No. 22 Arizona. Oregon State, USC, and U of A are all better teams than UCLA, and the only way for ASU to get to the Pac-12 championship is to beat them all on the road.
To say that the task is an uphill battle is an understatement. ASU will have to play lock down defense in order to win, and based on the last two games that seems unlikely. The Sun Devils have the potential to beat all three teams, but to say that they will beat three ranked teams on the road is irrational.
If the UCLA game proved one thing it is that we are merely a decent team. If you look at the beginning of our schedule, the maroon and gold went 5-1 by beating below average teams. There really was no convincing evidence to suggest that they were a great team. Both the Oregon and UCLA losses knocked ASU off of its once promising pedestal. As quickly as the hype came, it is gone. But it was fun while it lasted.