Commentary: Still reason to hope for ASU fans

Football-hope (09-15-08)
Fans cheer on ASU from the student section during the first quarter of Saturday’s game against UNLV. The Rebels won 23-20. (Morgan Bellinger/The State Press)
Published On:
Monday, September 15, 2008
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It stings. Trust me I’ve been there.

ASU was a 23-point favorite. No one even considered this possible.

Saturday’s game between ASU and UNLV offered little intrigue until the final minutes.

Who knew the Sun Devil’s ten point-lead was somehow fragile and in jeopardy?

And so the faithful laugh and concede to the old “go figure.” The fans haphazardly throw away their season and their hopes.

But not all is lost. Here, I offer reason for continued hope.

In fact, I offer that perhaps very little was lost (excluding our dignity). After the UNLV game, the season is almost exactly the same as it was.

College football acts as a unique, quasi-playoff system. Like all such systems, games toward the end matter more, and losing becomes a disastrous endeavor.

In college football, it’s OK to lose, so long as it’s early.

Naturally, the goal of every team is to go undefeated and be guaranteed a bid to the national championship game. However, if a team is going to lose, they are best served to do so by a small margin in September.

And barring exceptional circumstances, ASU can still reach the ultimate of bowl games.

The bad news: It’ll need to go undefeated to leap frog USC and hope the BCS takes care of all else.

Yes, it’s a near-insane proposition. And yes, remaining games against Georgia and in the Pac-10 Conference are tough. But those were the expectations before this mess too.

If ASU wins out, this UNLV debacle will be treated as a mulligan.

And bet your booty it’s true: USC lost to Stanford in 2007 and still had a legitimate shot at a championship game berth, despite dropping 12 spots in The Associated Press rankings.

The difference is this: USC did not have a Georgia left. They did have a Cal and an ASU left on the schedule, and we know what happened in those games.

Take the mulligan and relax, ASU fans. You now have a new team to root for in the Runnin’ Rebels (2-1). The better they do, the more likely it will be that the BCS does treat Saturday’s game as a nonissue.

Now, let’s discuss the possibility of ASU losing to both Georgia and USC the rest of the way.

Should ASU be defeated next weekend too, those around the program must remember that only conference play will build up or tear down the chances of a Rose Bowl appearance.

“We’re going to lose to USC,” you say, “They are the best team in the nation.”

But if the Trojans top ASU in October, USC could be well on its way to the national championship, leaving as many roses as you Sun Devil fans could possibly desire.

That’s a pretty good tradeoff. At least, it’s a whole lot better than another Holiday Bowl invitation.

All the Sun Devils have to do is place second in the Pac.

So please, celebrate the Georgia game like you should.

This season still has the potential it did in August.

Reach the reporter at joshua.spivack@asu.edu.