CFB Saturday Preview: ASU looks to become bowl eligible
CORVALLIS, Ore. — Arizona State coach Todd Graham said he isn’t necessarily feeling end-of-season pressure to get bowl eligible, but he’d like for his seniors to go out with a postseason.
The Sun Devils are 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the Pac-12 with two games to go. The first chance to reach six wins is Saturday at Oregon State (1-9, 0-7).
“The pressure would have been to beat USC, UCLA and win the conference championship,” Graham said about qualifying for the postseason. “It’s something that we don’t even talk about. We talk about winning championships. But, we did talk about it after this game that we have to get things corrected, get better and have a good week of practice. For these seniors, we need to get bowl eligible.”
The Sun Devils were disappointed last weekend when UCLA pulled away in the fourth quarter to win 44-37 at the Rose Bowl.
The game against the Beavers is Arizona State’s final road trip of the season. After that they’ll host rival Arizona over this coming Thanksgiving weekend.
Arizona State hasn’t played the Beavers since 2014. The Sun Devils should be wary because they have a five-game losing streak at Reser Stadium. But this year the Beavers are obviously struggling with only one win — against a lower-division opponent — and the midseason departure of head coach Gary Andersen. Oregon State has shown a spark under interim coach Cory Hall but the team has yet to get a conference win.
“This is their senior day. Not a senior in the country won’t get up and play their best game on a senior day,” Graham said. “It’s all about us playing disciplined football, getting after it, and being hungry to get our next win.”
Oregon State is coming off a 49-28 loss Saturday to Arizona.
Other things to watch when Oregon State hosts Arizona State:
The last time the two teams met was in 2014. Then-No. 7 Arizona State came to Reser and got upset by the Beavers 35-27. Graham said that isn’t a motivator for the current players who were on the roster back then.
“Our guys don’t think about all that stuff. Instead, our guys are focused on getting the next win and getting bowl eligible. Our guys have put a lot into this and they’ve been a great group to coach and work with,” Graham said. “I think right now they’re focused on the seniors and winning this next game and becoming bowl eligible. That’s it.”
RED ZONE DEVILS
Arizona State has been lights out in the red zone this season. The Sun Devils are second nationally, converting 36 of 37 (97.2 percent) of their trips inside their opponents’ 20-yard line into points.
The only time Arizona State didn’t score from the red zone was when it took a knee in the closing seconds of a victory over Washington.
The Sun Devils have 26 touchdowns in the red zone.
Going into the final two games of the season, Hall talked about inspiring his players to start this week. After Arizona State, the Beavers cap the season in the Civil War rivalry game at Oregon.
“No one is going to remember you for this record at the end of the day. It will be forever engraved. But they will remember you for turning it around, fighting back, beating Arizona State and then beating the Ducks,” Hall said he told the team.
Arizona State’s D.J. Calhoun is first nationally among all inside linebackers in tackling efficiency, with one missed tackle in 87 attempts. He’s also third in the Pac-12 with 8.6 tackles per game and 24th nationally with 5.5 solo tackles per game.
HEY, I KNOW THAT DUDE
Oregon State extended an offer to a promising young receiver out of Venice, California, and his name is certainly familiar to Beavers fans: Chad Johnson Jr. His dad, also known as Chad Ochocinco, starred at Oregon State in 2000 when the team went 11-1 and won the Fiesta Bowl. Ochocinco then spent 11 seasons in the NFL.