Arizona State and Oregon State find themselves in very similar situations this week. Both are still in contention for their respective Pac-12 division titles, but both need to bounce back from very difficult losses.
For ASU, it was a last-second field goal at home by UCLA freshman kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn that sunk the Sun Devils. The Beavers slogged their way through a four-turnover performance against the Washington Huskies, who handed Oregon State its first loss of the season.
When they meet in Corvallis, Ore., on Saturday night, both the Devils and the Beavers will be looking to clean up the errors that led to their tough losses the week before.
Yet neither coach is letting said losses linger.
"What you do is you pick yourself up off of the mat," said Arizona State coach Todd Graham, whose team fell to 5-3 (3-2 in conference). "You are in November and you are still competing for a championship. Heck, this thing's wide open. Our guys have a great spirit and a great attitude. You evaluate things at the end of the year. Right now, we have a good football team. Any team in this league and any team in the South can beat any other team. It's going to be a barn-burner. We're sitting at the top of the league and we've got a lot of things to play for."
No. 11 Oregon State (6-1, 4-1), which was off to one of the best starts in school history, saw its chances of playing for the BCS championship -- slim chances, but chances nonetheless -- dashed in a wave of turnovers and inefficiency. Head coach Mike Riley said that, so far, he's liked the way his team has responded.
"I think it's been good, but I didn't expect any different," Riley said. "This group has been good on every Monday. We played another game well into the fourth quarter and this time we lost. And there are real reasons why we lost. We turned the ball over for the first time more than the other team did and in bad situations and we gave it to them in good situations and they took it away from us in scoring situations. It's easy to see the reasons. But I think the team as far as work and getting ready for the next game has started well."
Part of that preparation is getting behind quarterback Cody Vaz, who will reprise his role as starter in place of the benched Sean Mannion. The Washington game was Mannion's first back after missing two games with minor knee surgery. And in his place, Vaz guided the Beavers to victories at BYU and home against Utah. Mannion threw four interceptions in the loss to the Huskies.
Riley said he doesn't expect the move to shake up the locker room.
"I think both quarterbacks have a lot of respect amongst the team," Riley said. "I haven't seen any really any response either way. They have faith in both of them and we have to pick one and I think they're good with it."
Arizona State is hoping to have defensive linemen Will Sutton and Junior Onyeali healthy for this game. Sutton, who was injured on the first series two weeks ago against Oregon and then missed the UCLA game, was having the best season for a defensive linemen in the conference prior to his injury. Well, one of the best. Oregon State fans will argue that Scott Crichton was having just as good of a year -- if not better. So if Sutton returns, a good sidebar to this meeting is which defensive line can make the stops.
"Their defensive line is a strength for them," Graham said. "It starts up front and they are very sound about what they are doing. They have stayed pretty healthy and haven't had too many guys get hurt, so they are pretty solid there. Really impressed with how well they cover in space in the secondary. They are not going to make stupid mistakes and they are very, very well coached on both sides of the football. They are very sound in what they do and as good a coached team as we've played."