Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Preseason News & Notes

Some news and notes regarding ASU football from around the country:

--In the annual preseason conference media day, the Sun Devils were picked 2nd in the Pac-10, behind USC. ASU has never been picked to win the Pac-10, but have been conference champions three times (1986, 1996, 2007).

--The ASU-Georgia game on September 20th has been named #6 on the Must-See Games of 2008 by Bruce Feldman on ESPN.com.

"The mighty Dawgs head west (way west) for the first time in a very long time to meet an Arizona State squad which could be dangerous if it learned how to protect the passer. The last time UGA met a touted team with a similar rep, the Dawgs hammered Colt Brennan's squad and left anyone who talked Hawaii up looking foolish. A win here would be huge for the Pac-10's rep against the vaunted SEC."

--ESPN's Ted Miller ranked the Pac-10's five most bitter rivalries, with ASU-UofA ranking second behind USC-UCLA. He even went as far as to call it perhaps the nation's most underrated rivalry.

"Perhaps the nation's most underrated rivalry, as I found out first hand. There's a rational basis for the extreme dislike -- UA tried to stop ASU from becoming an accredited university in the 1950s -- but it's festered into the sort of joyful, spiteful irrationality that fuels, say, Auburn-Alabama."

--Miller also ranked Rudy Carpenter as the Pac-10's best Quarterback.

"He enters his senior season with 65 touchdowns and 8,000 yards passing, meaning he's going to dust such luminaries, such as Matt Leinart, Jake Plummer, John Elway and Carson Palmer in the Pac-10 record book. Moreover, the Sun Devils figure to finish in the top-third in the conference."

--And a ranking of the Pac-10's most hated teams put the Sun Devils as the third most hated team in the Pac-10. Arizona ranked 8th. People dislike a winner way more than those teams they feel sorry for.

"This is a recent hate elevation. The Sun Devils used to be middle-of-the-pack for all teams other than Arizona. But now the program, long hailed a sleeping giant, appears to be waking up with Dennis Erickson at the helm. That breeds jealousy. And lots of folks are quick to insist that ASU is easier to get into academically than most Pac-10 schools."

About Arizona they said this: "The only team that really hates Arizona is Arizona State, but that hate is pretty strong and keeps the Wildcats registering on the Hate Meter. And, if the program's turnaround... any second... any second... finally arrives, expect a more confident Mike Stoops to find ways to annoy fans from schools outside the Grand Canyon State."

--The Arizona Republic reported on how the Georgia fans are gearing up for the big game. The last time the Bulldogs came this far west was in 1960 in a 10-3 loss at Southern Cal. Georgia easily sold it's 7,000+ ticket allotment and many fans are purchasing ASU season tickets just to come for that one game. In all estimates are ranging anywhere from 10,000 - 25,000 Bulldog fans will make the trip to the House of Heat. It should be an intense atmosphere that will be reminiscent of the ASU-Nebraska game in 1996, where Nebraska fans were loud and made up almost half of the home crowd.

--A new rule change for this season regarding the use of instant replay should be a positive addition. Now, if there is a fumble that is recovered by the defense but the official whistles the play dead (i.e. Cal vs. ASU last season), the play can be reviewed to determine whether or not it was a fumble and which team gets possession. Doug Rhoads, college football officials' coordinator for 20+ schools explained it as, "In the past, if an official ruled a player's knee was down and then the ball came loose, that was not a fumble. When his knee was down, the play was over. Once he's down, there's no review. Now, regardless of what the official rules, if there is an immediate recovery, they can review it to make sure possession is rewarded to the right team. Replay won't happen when there's a huge cluster and officials are trying to figure out who has the ball under the pile. Only the officials can determine that. But if there's a split second when the ball comes loose, another player recovers it and the play is dead, they can review it and see whether his knee was down or not."

Another rule change is that all facemask penalties will be of the 15 yard variety and also when a play ends up out of bounds, instead of the clock stopping until the next snap it will stop only for the official to place the ball on the hashmark and then will start again.

--Sports Illustrated ranked ASU the #1 Athletic Program in the nation. Stanford finished 2nd and UCLA 3rd. USC was 7th and Arizona was 22nd, seventh out of Pac teams.