<
>

It's time for ASU to make a statement

9/8/2011

Last spring, Arizona State began a marketing campaign that hinted at mysterious change, "It's time," we were told. And again.

Then, in April, the school introduced new uniforms and a new pitchfork logo. Reviews were mostly positive, other than those coming from Arizona fans and some grumps out there who don't like change.

But the campaign wasn't over. We were still told, "It's time."

True. The football program has made a cosmetic change. Fine. Now what about making a change from being poor-to-middling and actually winning a conference title?

Enter No. 21 Missouri. Opportunity is knocking. It's time to answer. But will the Sun Devils be up to high expectations?

"This is a game that has been circled on our schedule for a long time," quarterback Brock Osweiler said. "Just like our school slogan says, 'It's time.' It's time for us to win a big game at home."

Arizona State hasn't posted a winning season since 2007, when it went 10-3 in coach Dennis Erickson's debut. They've lost their past 10 games against top-25 teams. Over the past two years, the Sun Devils have displayed an uncanny knack for finding ways to lose, inspiring lots of, "What might have been?"

In 2009, they lost four games by five or fewer points. In 2010, they lost four games by four or fewer points, including squandered opportunities versus Wisconsin, Stanford and USC. They somehow managed to stay within 11 points of Oregon -- one of three teams to do so -- despite seven turnovers.

It's time for the costly sloppiness to end and winning to begin.

Of course, one game doesn't make a season. But one game can indicate where a season is going. Arizona Republic columnist Paola Boivin pointed out an interesting factoid this week: Four times since 1980, the Sun Devils posted victories over ranked nonconference foes. Wrote

Boivin:

In those seasons, ASU finished with a combined record of 37-9-1 and went to three bowl games, including two Rose Bowls. In the six seasons with losses against non-conference ranked teams in September, the combined record was an incredibly mediocre 34-33-2.

So, yeah, it's time, and one game just might make a season.

"We think we have a chance to be pretty good, but we’ll know more about us after that football game," Erickson said.

Further, Missouri has suffered through injury woes that match -- even exceed -- the Sun Devils, which is a good reason the ranked team is more than a touchdown underdog. The Tigers won't have seven projected starters available. The Sun Devils count on that is six, if you include QB Steven Threet but not running back Deantre Lewis.

Arizona State is trying to make this a big evening in Tempe. It will don all-back uniforms for the first time, and fans are being encouraged to wear all-back in order to create a "black out" in the stands.

Yes, there are a lot of cosmetic things going on with the Sun Devils. But the bottom line of "It's time," isn't about a new logo or fancypants uniforms.

Said Erickson, "As I’ve said many times, it’s not the (uniforms), it’s who’s in the (uniforms)."

And it's time for those guys to make a statement.