It's difficult to say whether it's more remarkable Arizona State has lost its last three games or that it still has a chance to represent the South in the first-ever Pac-12 Championship game, but that's the position it finds itself in entering the regular season finale against Cal Friday.
A win against the Golden Bears coupled with wins by Utah over Colorado and USC over UCLA would send the Sun Devils to Eugene, Ore., on Dec. 2 to take on Oregon in the title game, with the victor headed to the Rose Bowl.
It leaves a big carrot on the field for a team that might otherwise be in emotional ruin. Of course, there's another thing the team will play for Friday and that's Senior Day.
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"There are two things that I look at this week,"ASU coach Dennis Erickson said. "Number 1, we're mathematically still in it. If you win that football game, you have a chance (to play in the conference title game).
"But even more than that, we have 22 seniors playing their last football game here in Sun Devil Stadium that have been here for a long period of time. They put a lot of blood and sweat and tears, and it's their last time out. To me, that's really the Number 1 thing."
With the Sun Devils in a short week of preparation, Erickson put on the back burner any talk about his job status, saying he was singularly focused on the task ahead.
"If I had the answer (for what's transpired in recent weeks) I would try to solve the problem," Erickson said. "We haven't practiced differently. We've practiced extremely well. Guys are focused in meetings. There's not just one thing that stands out why this has happened. I don't have an answer for you to be very honest. I do know one thing. We have to live in the present. We have to get ready for Cal. That's where I'm at right now."
Senior Gerell Robinson, who set a Territorial Cup record Saturday with 199 receiving yards, said he has no doubt of the outcome.
"We will win," Robinson said. "I'm not worried about it. I know what this team has. And if this team has the character I think it has, we will win this game. We'll make sure we'll do what we have to do."
Junior quarterback Brock Osweiler, who said he's not spent much time thinking about the possibility of Erickson not being retained, sounded confident the Sun Devils can bounce back, regardless of how the last three weeks have gone.
"I know we can get back on track because I know the players and the coaches in this (program)," Osweiler said. "I know their personalities. I know their work ethics. I know the drive that they have within themselves, and that's why I have the confidence we can get back on track and finish the season the way we should."