The Arizona State Sun Devils find themselves in a textbook “trap game” scenario.
After a 4-1 start and a bye week, the Devils hit the road for a nationally-televised Thursday night game at Pac-12 bottom-feeder Colorado. With a win, ASU would be 5-1 with another Thursday night matchup against 2nd-ranked Oregon at Sun Devil Stadium on the horizon.
Nobody’s saying it’s not easy to overlook the Buffaloes. Jon Embree’s team is 1-4 and ranks 115th nationally in scoring defense, allowing almost 40 points per game.
But Arizona State head coach Todd Graham says his team is focused on the next game on the schedule and not the big game with Oregon.
“I never mentioned it to them,” Graham said at his weekly press conference Monday in Tempe. “I know that sounds crazy, but we’re very single-minded and focused.”
Graham’s Sun Devils won their last road game, beating Cal in Berkeley 27-17 for their first win at Strawberry Canyon since 1997. Graham believes the effort needs to be increased for the team to leave Boulder with a victory.
“We’ve got to be better than we were at Cal,” he said. “We’ve coached them really hard for the last week and a half and we’ve got to be prepared to go and to be sure we don’t do the things — you know, don’t turn the football over and don’t have stupid penalties. Those are the things that give the crowd momentum.”
If those care-taking measures are indeed the key, ASU is in good shape heading to Colorado. The Sun Devils haven’t committed a turnover in two straight games and rank sixth in the nation for fewest penalty yards — an average of only 31 per game.
“I think you have to stay hungry, you have to stay focused on what you’re doing and you have to stay motivated on the opponent that’s right in front of you,” Graham said. “I haven’t got any sense that of that at all, that our guys are (looking ahead).”