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ASU faces biggest challenge to date at Cal

The Arizona State Sun Devils are a confident bunch.

Why shouldn’t they be? Under first-year head coach Todd Graham, the Devils are off to a 3-1 start and are playing a disciplined brand of football.

Their opponent this week, the California Golden Bears, are in a much different place. Cal is 1-3 after consecutive losses to Ohio State and USC and in desperate need of a win for embattled head coach Jeff Tedford.

Despite all the turmoil, the Sun Devils know that Cal is loaded with talent and capable of putting it all together at any time.

“Their skill people are really, really good,” Graham said Thursday following practice. “Their running backs — (Brendan) Bigelow is dynamic and obviously (Keenan) Allen, their wide receiver, is as good as their is.”

The Bears average 411 yards and 27 points per game, which both have them in the middle of the pack in the national rankings, but Graham is concerned about Cal’s big play ability.

“I guess that’s the thing that impresses me the most — they’ve got so many players at running back and receiver that can take the ball to the house, and I don’t think we’ve played against anybody that has that to this point.”

Talent aside, the Sun Devils haven’t won in Berkeley since 1997 — a fact that everybody associated with the program has been bludgeoned with leading into the game. Graham and his players are not concerned with that history, but are very aware just how big this game is for the program.

“It’d be huge, we haven’t beaten those guys in a while and I think it’s going to help us stay in the driver’s seat right now for the Pac-12 South,” senior offensive lineman Evan Finkenberg said.

Arizona Sports’ Craig Grialou contributed to this report