Arizona State Sun Devils (6-6) vs. Boise State Broncos (11-1)
Dec. 22, 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Arizona State take by Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller: After a strong start, Arizona State crashed and burned, and that's why coach Dennis Erickson is out of a job.
And if the Sun Devils are unfocused against Boise State, they will get crushed, losing a fifth consecutive game and thereby finishing with a losing record. That would be no way to send Erickson off into the sunset.
On Oct. 29, things seemed so different. With the Sun Devils at 6-2 and nationally ranked, Erickson seemed due for a contract extension. Heck, even a raise. Quarterback Brock Osweiler was putting up big numbers and an opportunistic defense was forcing turnovers and getting red zone stops. The South Division title seemed a certainty. And the schedule eased up, so it was reasonable to project 10 wins.
But things went haywire at UCLA, and the Sun Devils never recovered. After losing to the Bruins, ASU went down at Washington State and lost to rival Arizona, which was playing with an interim coach after firing Mike Stoops. The season-ending loss at home to Cal was played in front of an embarrassing number of empty seats. The defense went belly-up during the losing streak.
Most Sun Devils fans are focused on who the team's next coach will be. The Sun Devils better focus on Boise State or they could get embarrassed.
The Broncos may have finished as the highest-ranked non-AQ team, but you are not guaranteed an automatic spot into the BCS unless you are a conference champion. It is really hard to believe that a second-straight 11-1 season could end with so much disappointment. But only in Boise are 11-win seasons disappointments when you don’t have access to the big stage.
Still, this senior group has won 49 games in its career and has a chance to set the record for most wins by a class in the bowl game. Quarterback Kellen Moore topped himself with another fine season, throwing for 3,507 yards, 41 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He did it without his top two receivers from a season ago, turning a group of unknowns into his go-to guys.
Tyler Shoemaker had 15 touchdown catches to lead the way. The defense was perhaps not as crisp as in years past. The defensive line was unable to get consistent pressure up front, and the secondary has been ravaged by one injury after another. The Broncos played against TCU without their top three cornerbacks and had to rely on freshmen against some very talented skill players. Doug Martin was banged up this year as well. Still, you have to give credit to this program for its recent run of success over the last four years -- one BCS appearance, plus three other teams completely worthy of getting in. Remember the undefeated regular-season team of 2008 was left out of the BCS, and now back-to-back seasons have been decided by a field goal.