(Photo: ASU Athletics)
This wasn’t a conference game. Their goals can still be attained. The tough stretch of games is behind them. After Arizona State’s 37-34 loss to Notre Dame Saturday night in Arlington, these were the types of comments being made, not only by fans, but by players and coaches. In fact, these statements were prevalent in the week leading up to this contest. My question is: Why?
Factually, mathematically, however you want to put it, this game does not affect Arizona State’s chances of winning the Pac-12 South and having the opportunity to go to the Rose Bowl. That unequivocally does not mean this game tonight was pointless. The complete opposite is true.
Oddsmakers had the Sun Devils as about a seven-point favorite before kickoff. ASU was the ranked team. Notre Dame was not. ASU was the team expected to win the game. They did not.
ASU’s three wins this season have come at home. They demolished Sacramento State, as they should have. They beat Wisconsin, thanks to help from the zebras. They wore down USC, as they should have. So really, what has Arizona State shown us this season? Not much, yet.
What they have managed to show is continued road struggles, and they’ve come up short in winnable games away from Sun Devil Stadium. Tonight was their opportunity to come up with that break-through road win on a national stage, against one of the most storied programs in college football.
Just because this wasn’t a conference game does not mean it lacked significance. The focus should never solely be on conference play, and if that’s the case, the mindset needs to change.
The Sun Devils have yet to prove they can win a significant road game. So, what makes you believe they will beat UCLA on November 23 at the Rose Bowl, let alone knock off Washington State in their most anticipated home game of the season in Pullman, or a Utah team notoriously tough at home?
They could have put to rest some of these concerns with a win tonight. So yes, this was a meaningful game.
Seven conference games remain for Arizona State to prove they belong as one of the premier teams on the west coast. Seven games to show they can compete for a division title and a spot in the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game. Seven games to realize their goal of being in the hunt for the Rose Bowl berth. Well, they better get moving, because they haven’t shown anything yet.
You can reach Alex Gallant via email at Alex.Gallant@asu.edu or on Twitter @seatownsports.