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Arizona State Sun Devils looking to lock in coming off of bye week

Arizona State's Aashari Crosswell, left, celebrates with Chase Lucas (24) after intercepting a pass intended for California's Jordan Duncan in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Bye weeks are a necessary thing for football teams.

They give the program time to reflect on itself and reload, both mentally and physically, for the rest of the season’s grind.

But there’s also another side to the off weeks, a side that can harm instead help.

So for an Arizona State Sun Devils football team looking to build off of the early successes of the season, the week leading up to Saturday’s matchup with Washington State is more than just game prep.

“Coming off a bye week is an important week for us,” ASU head coach Herm Edwards said on Monday. “I made the comment to our football team that sometimes bye weeks are really good but they can also backfire on you too if you don’t get yourself ready to play.

“… I had to give them a warning. This bye week’s really good, you’re rested up, but you’ve got to get back into the mode of playing football again, and that’s kinda what hurts you in a bye week.”

It’ll be critical the team jumps back on the train full bore with the Cougars coming town.

While WSU sits at 3-2, having lost its last two games to Pac-12 opponents, the Cougars still have an offense capable of putting up points behind head coach Mike Leach.

Statistically speaking, the Cougars are averaging 44.8 points to go along with 450 passing yards and nearly 100 rushing yards per game.

On the other side of the ball, there’s some question marks as to what the defense will look like with Tracy Claeys resigning from his position as WSU defensive coordinator.

That doesn’t change the ones suiting up, however.

“I don’t know exactly what they’re going to be,” Edwards said. “But I do know this, the players don’t change. The players are the players according to what [the DC] wants them to do, but I’m sure they’re in good hands.

“When you make a change like that it brings shockwaves to your football team, but knowing this team and their pedigree, these guys have won an average of nine games in the last three years. Coach Leach has done a marvelous job of creating an atmosphere of winning. They know how to win. … I told my team they will come here and they will be at their best.”

Bye week rankings shuffle

The Sun Devils entered the bye week at No. 20 in the AP poll after knocking off California 24-17.

And without even playing a game this week, ASU saw another jump in the rankings, moving to No. 18, to Edwards’ surprise.

“We haven’t handled success very well when we get ranked,” Edwards said. “So that’s something else. How do we handle it? How do all these young guys handle all that stuff? I didn’t even know that [about bumping up to No. 18].

“That’s new to me. I live in a bubble, I didn’t even know that. We’re going to have to prepare and play, but rankings don’t help you win games, they really don’t. They’re nice, but doesn’t mean anything until the end. ‘Til the season’s over with then what are you ranked? What bowl game you playing in? To me, all that other stuff is just stuff.”

Edwards added that for coaches like Alabama’s Nick Saban, who are ranked yearly among the top teams in the nation, the polls don’t mean much other than adding more pressure to the team. They know they are up there, while worry about it?

But while the ASU head coach doesn’t have that extra jump in his step for moving up the rankings, he hopes eventually the news of the team in the top 25 isn’t really news.

“Is there pressure on [the top teams in the nation]? Yeah but they’re used to it, they live in it. It’s normal,” Edwards said. “I would hope eventually when we build this program that it would be normal, that it won’t be a conversation. It’ll be ‘yeah, so what? Who cares?’

“That’s what you want, to be quite honest. That’s what I’ve always looked at with good teams. When you’re a good team it’s like yeah don’t worry about that just kept playing. There shouldn’t be any pressure on you. It should be more of it’s normal. That’s what we want to be.”

EXTRA POINTS

– Edwards said junior injured kicker Brandon Ruiz is still not kicking, leaving sophomore Christian Zendejas as the starter.

“He felt a little twinge again so he’s out. He’s still out. That’s where he’s at right now. We know who our kicker is and we’re going with our guy. and good for him because the more he kicks the more confident he becomes.”

Ruiz announced on Twitter after the availability that he plans to transfer from the program in the summer.

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