Arizona State knows a major opportunity awaits on Saturday against Notre Dame at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
While the No. 22 Sun Devils’ opponent is unranked, it’s one of the premier names in college football, and the game will be held in one of the nation’s top venues in front of a primetime national TV audience.
“You don’t get these opportunities very often in your life,” ASU coach Todd Graham said.
The program is using the national stage as a branding opportunity, rolling out new “Shamrock Series” helmets featuring flames and pitchforks, and it could become the first school to ever beat Southern California and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks.
But while the Sun Devils athletic department is doing what it can to hype the matchup and promote its brand, senior defensive tackle Will Sutton said his team needs to stay focused on the field — not on the potential program-wide benefits a win could bring.
“It’s cool, but we can’t get too excited over some jerseys,” Sutton said. “We’ve got to play a game, but that’s not hard at all. Look at Oregon, they get new jerseys every day and come out and play every day.
“It’s a big opportunity. This game is for us. If we win this game, it’s for us to hit our goals.”
Playing away from Sun Devil Stadium has been a challenge for Arizona State and quarterback Taylor Kelly over the past two seasons — getting off to a devastatingly slow start at Stanford this year and dropping three games on the road last season.
Kelly said part of that is getting accustomed to new surroundings, especially when playing in a widely recognized stadium.
“I’m sure guys are going to have that awe moment, walk in the stadium, see that jumbotron, see how big it is, (and that) we’re playing Notre Dame,” Kelly said. “You’re going to have that, but you’ve got to snap out of it.”
Another thing that comes with a big stage is the potential for distractions — something Graham, a Texas native, has found out this week. Graham said he’s received so many calls and texts from family and friends that he gave his cell phone to an assistant and said, “It’s been a miserable week.”
Still, despite any potential distractions, Graham knows the long-term benefits of a game against a traditional college football powerhouse — and, above anything else, it’s a chance to compete against a team that played for the national title a year ago.
“Playing in a setting like this,” Graham said, “it’s what you work for. It’s why you do it.”