Dear Mr. Football: Has Arizona State finally arrived?
A: The Sun Devils appeared to have “arrived” on Aug. 24, 1969, when ASU athletic director Clyde Smith told the Star he planned to expand Sun Devil Stadium to seat 87,000.
“Now we have arrived,” said Smith. “We have been able to schedule outstanding opponents for many years ahead.”
ASU then went on a smoking five-year run, 51-6 overall, routing Arizona by a cumulative 172-70. Alas, along came Jim Young, Larry Smith, Chuck Cecil and Dick Tomey.
Arizona since has a 20-18-1 edge in the Territorial Cup. Sadly, Clyde Smith died in 1976, a year before the stadium grew from 57,000 to 72,000 seats. Now the Sun Devils plan to reduce seating capacity by about 14,000. Most college football programs, including ASU and Arizona, arrive and depart (and sometimes disappear) routinely over 40 years.
ASU has indeed arrived once again.
Dear Mr. Football: Shouldn’t Ka’Deem Carey win something this year?
A: It’s unlikely Carey will win the Heisman or even the Doak Walker Award, although Rich Rodriguez is so adamant that Carey deserves to win the DWA that he said those not voting for Carey should lose their privileges to vote “for president, senator or even the homecoming queen.”
More pertinent, is that Carey is on the brink of becoming the first Arizona player ever to be the Pac-12’s Offensive Player of the Year. That would end an 0-for-35 year shutout.
The Wildcats have had seven Pac-12 Defensive Players of the Year (Ricky Hunley, Byron Evans, Chuck Cecil, Dana Wells, Darryll Lewis, Rob Waldrop, Tedy Bruschi) but haven’t even sniffed the offensive POY honor.
Here’s the suspense: If ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly plays a killer game Saturday, whipping Arizona, he is apt to move ahead of Carey and become the league’s offensive POY himself.
Dear Mr. Football: Why do so many people want to put a fork in Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott?
A: Because Saturday’s game will be seen only on the Pac-12 Networks, which is unavailable to DirecTV’s estimated 37 million global subscribers.
The Scott vs. DirecTV standoff really isn’t a standoff at all. DirecTV doesn’t care about the Territorial Cup or any Pac-12 sporting event. A few days ago, DirecTV announced it gained 139,000 subscribers in the third quarter of 2013 and had third-quarter profits of $699 million.
Is this progress?
During the classic 1975 Territorial Cup — ASU won 24-21 on John Jefferson’s controversial “The Catch” — there was no over-the-air broadcast, not even delayed coverage. The only people to see that game were 4,754 at McKale Center and 3,159 at ASU’s Wells Fargo Arena, each of whom paid $3 for a closed-circuit broadcast on a grainy screen suspended from the rafters.
Dear Mr. Football: Was Arizona’s victory over No. 5 Oregon the Greatest Win In School History?
A: Not even close. It might not be among the 10 most meaningful victories in UA history.
I contend that Arizona’s No. 1 victory ever was the 1982 Territorial Cup, a 28-18 shocker over the No. 6 Sun Devils. That game accomplished three things that any historic victory should:
One, it kept the Sun Devils out of the Rose Bowl and prevented the gap between the two schools — ASU had dominated the Cup for 20 years — from being ridiculously wide. The Wildcats were no longer looked upon as the tag-along ugly sister of the UA-ASU admission to the Pac-10.
Two, it changed the perception of UA football, which was under NCAA investigation for sins committed during the bungled Tony Mason years, 1977-79, and led to a two-year probation. Arizona was a serious Rose Bowl contender six times over the next 11 years.
Three, it made Arizona’s victories over No. 1 USC, No. 2 UCLA and undefeated Notre Dame from 1980 to 1982 legitimate, not isolated upsets; it catapulted Arizona into the Top 10 in the lead-up to 1983 and began a nine-year unbeaten streak against the Sun Devils.
Beating the Ducks got a lot of attention. So far, that’s about it.
Dear Mr. Football: How heavy is a college football?
A: It weighs 14 to 15 ounces. Thus, when USC’s Ricky Bell set the Pac-12 record with 51 carries against Washington State in 1976, his coach, John McKay said he was not worried about the work load.
“The ball’s not heavy,” McKay said.
Oregon State’s Bill “Earthquake’ Enyart carried 50 times in a 1968 game against Utah. Then came Carey’s 48-carry performance last week against Oregon. In 1999, Oregon’s Reuben Droughns carried an opponent-record 45 times against Arizona. The only other Pac-12 back in that prolific company was Cal’s Paul Jones, with 46 carries against WSU in 1978.
Here’s the common thread: All five of those teams won. Memo to RichRod: Give the ball to Carey a lot. And then a lot more. Go for 50.
Dear Mr. Football: Who is the happiest guy in Pac-12 football today?
A: It has got to be the cameraman assigned to follow ASU coach Todd Graham, embedded in the Sun Devils’ program for the Pac-12 Networks’ weekly “The Drive” program.
His work is almost complete.
I’m one of the few suckers who has watched every episode of “The Drive,” possibly the only one. I keep waiting to see something insightful or tender or explosive, sort of the way HBO treats its yearly NFL training camp “Hard Knocks” series. Funny? Not a word.
Instead, “The Drive” shows Graham shouting, posturing, preaching, shouting and posturing. He has a world-class larynx.
Over three months, “The Drive” didn’t make Graham look human. No family stuff. No thoughtful reflection on his climb from Texas poverty. It was like an actor from central casting was hired to do Bo Schembechler 2.0.
At least RichRod did a “Funky Chicken” dance in the UA locker room this year when the cameras were rolling.
Dear Mr. Football: How often does a double-figure road underdog win a Pac-12 rivalry game?
A: According to my collection of Phil Steele college football yearbooks, it has happened once this century. That’s once out of 65 rivalry games.
And it was at Sun Devil Stadium in 2011.
Arizona (2-8) was a 10-point underdog. ASU was 6-4. Tim Kish coached a fractured Arizona team. The doomed Dennis Erickson coached the Sun Devils.
Arizona won 31-27.
Before that, no other Pac-12 rivalry road team, as a double-figure underdog, had won since 1998.
That’s how unlikely it is that Arizona will win at Sun Devil Stadium again Saturday, as a double-figure underdog. In 2013, ASU has arrived once again. Sun Devils 38, Wildcats 27.