Most important game: Arizona State

May, 16, 2012
5/16/12
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Every game counts. But some games count more. Or tell us more.

We're going through the Pac-12 and picking out one game that seems most important -- or potentially most revealing -- for each team from our vantage point today.

We're going in alphabetical order.

Arizona State

Most important game: Northern Arizona, Aug. 30/Sept. 1

Why it's important: Ted did a bit of thunder stealing by pointing out that Arizona's most important game was Arizona State on Nov. 23. My first thought when we started this series was to circle this game as well for the Sun Devils. But allow, if you will, an alternate point of view.

Northern Arizona is not exactly a powerhouse in the FCS ranks. Guess what, ASU fans, you guys aren't exactly a powerhouse in the FBS ranks right now. Hurts to hear, but the truth always is. But rebuilding projects start with step one. And step one for the Sun Devils is getting a victory -- regardless of who the opponent is.

ASU is in the midst of a five-game slide -- most fresh is the 56-24 beating by Boise State in the Maaco Bowl. Until you get on the field and prove otherwise, you're only as good as your last game.

But as there is every spring in almost every camp, there is positive momentum around the ASU program, fueled by new head coach Todd Graham and his up-tempo, yet disciplined style of football. This is a good thing -- and Graham has given fans a reason to be excited.

It would be tempting to point to the Illinois game in Week 2 -- given the tough 17-14 loss last year and the fact that ASU coaches Ron West and Chip Long were both on the Illinois staff last season. But that's all the more reason to focus on Week 1.

A victory against NAU, which is expected since it's believed ASU has never lost to an FCS team, would be a good confidence boost for the quarterback-to-be and the players still learning new schemes on both sides of the ball. A loss would be absolutely devastating and would be a huge step backwards for Graham and Co.

Just ask Oregon State and Duke. Ask Virginia Tech and Kansas, Ole Miss and Minnesota, or any of the 13 teams that have lost to an FCS school in the past three years. Arizona is a long ways off and there is an entire season to debate the importance of that Nov. 23 showdown. Get through Week 1 first.

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