The ASU football team has had a strong revival during the first year and a half of the Todd Graham era, but the one thing it is lacking is the ability to consistently win on the road.
Last year, when the Sun Devils visited Tucson for the Territorial Cup, they came away victorious in the only signature road win to date for ASU with Graham at the helm.
Impressive as that victory was, ASU still has not shown the ability to go on the road against quality opponents and win with any regularity.
So far this season, the Sun Devils have played away from home just twice and have lost both those games.
First, against Stanford, ASU was manhandled in the first half en route to a 42-28 loss.
The Sun Devils’ second game away was played at a neutral site in Dallas against Notre Dame and despite a late comeback, Graham’s team came up short for its second loss in as many road games in 2013.
Coming off its bye week, ASU faces road games in three of its next four contests.
The Sun Devils will be on the road to play Washington State and Utah before returning home against Oregon State. After their game against the Beavers, they will be back on the road to face UCLA in a game that looks like it will have conference championship implications.
Don’t get me wrong, last year’s victory over UA on the road in the last game of the regular season was very impressive.
A rivalry game to close out the season is always tough and to go on the road and come away with a win is enough to qualify as this team’s signature road win under this regime.
But it takes more than just one signature win to solidify a program’s standing in road contests. It takes the skill to go out week after week and win football games, whether you’re playing on your home turf or you’re traveling to an opponent’s house.
In 2013, the Sun Devils have shown fans and critics a lot. They have featured an explosive offense, a solid — albeit at times vulnerable — defense and a cadre of strong skill players.
What they have not shown is the ability to win on the road against quality opponents.
Two road wins could come very quickly for the Sun Devils if they roll through WSU and Utah as they should. But even those games won’t be easy as Utah has already taken down a top conference team at home this season in Stanford.
It’s going to take another win against a solid opponent along the lines of the Territorial Cup contest from a year ago to solidify ASU’s road reputation.
And a solid road reputation is what the Sun Devils are going to need moving forward.
This team has had a lot of success this season, and they have made some significant strides toward becoming a top program in the Pac-12.
Beating teams like Wisconsin, USC and Washington (two of which were ranked when they took on ASU) has put the Sun Devils in a revolving door of being just inside and at times just outside of the AP top 25 poll.
But if the Sun Devils really want to start garnering respect and attention, they will have to prove they can enter hostile territory and light up the scoreboard like they have at home.
The opportunity to show that will come.
Their upcoming streak of road games is going to give them the perfect chance to show their skills off on the road.
Going 3-0 in these games might very well vault ASU up toward the middle of the AP Top 25 poll, while beating UCLA will be a great warmup for the Territorial Cup showdown with UA one week later.
The way UCLA has played this year and the way the conference is shaping up, that game in Pasadena could be the biggest game of the season for the Sun Devils.
What a better stage than that to show critics, fans and opponents alike that this program is one to take seriously even when it’s on the road.
One big road win is a start. Winning the easier road games is necessary. But none of that really matters until ASU can go away from home and beat quality opponents with regularity.
In a season that has put ASU back on the map in the conference and the nation, rattling off a series of road wins in the next month could be their biggest hurdle yet.
Reach the columnist at email@example.com or Follow him on Twitter @ICBeck21