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Thursday, June 9, 2011
Schedule analysis: Arizona State

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

We'll be reviewing each Pac-12 team's schedule, and now we move on to the South Division.

Up next: Arizona State

Breakdown: seven home (five conference games), five road (four conference games)

Nonconference opponents (with 2010 records)

Sept. 1 UC Davis (6-5)
Sept. 9 Missouri (10-3)
Sept. 17 at Illinois (7-6)

South Division games

Sept. 24 USC
Oct. 8 at Utah
Oct. 29 Colorado
Nov. 5 at UCLA
Nov. 19 Arizona

Crossover games

Oct. 1 Oregon State
Oct. 15 at Oregon
Nov. 12 at Washington State
Nov. 25 California

Conference misses

Stanford
Washington

Key stretch: Is Arizona State just a solid bowl team, or something bigger? The Sun Devils will know by Oct. 16, after a six-game stretch that includes two tough nonconference games, two games with top South Division rivals and winds up with a trip to Oregon.

Trap game: The Sun Devils stomped Washington State 42-zip in 2010. After that blowout loss, the Cougars played well in their final three games. And they remember that terrible trip to Tempe. If the Sun Devils are looking ahead to a rivalry game with Arizona, they might get embarrassed by a team that will be keen on revenge.  Oh, and it tends to be a bit chilly in Pullman in mid-November

Sure thing: UC, IC, we all C Davis get crushed in the opener.

Analysis: This schedule sets Arizona State up for a special season. Missouri gives the Sun Devils a home game against a ranked nonconference foe. Illinois gives them a road game against a credible AQ conference opponent. Both games will draw national attention and give them a stage to reintroduce themselves to the nation: "Hey, remember us?" At 3-0, it's likely they'd be ranked in the top-10. Seven home games, including five home conference games is good. It's good to play USC and Arizona at home. It's good to miss Stanford and not so bad to miss Washington, either. The visit to Oregon on Oct. 15 will be a huge challenge, but teams playing for high stakes must find ways to win those sorts of games. The bye after that matchup should help ASU decompress, win or lose. The schedule over the final five games is much easier than the first seven. If the Sun Devils somehow win at Oregon and improve to 7-0, they would become legitimate national title contenders. A big if, but one at least worth noting.