TEMPE, Arizona – Arizona State sits atop the Pac-12 South, but the Sun Devils are deadlocked in the lead with another team as the conference race heats up.
Their coming opponent, Washington State, is potentially one win away from ascending to first in the Pac-12 North.
ASU coach Herm Edwards – along with many others attached to this league in some way – have been reiterating it all season: The Pac-12 is wide open.
“Whether you’re in the South or the North, there’s three or four teams that still, when you look at the conference schedule, have a shot,” Edwards said earlier this week. “That’s what makes it so interesting in Pac-12 play: Everyone has an outside shot if you’ve won some games.”
The Cougars (4-4, 3-2) were picked by media members in the preseason to finish last in the division, and their 1-3 start was far from encouraging. Despite the lack of outside expectations and the shaky first few weeks – and the big blow the program suffered this month with the loss of half its coaching staff – WSU’s ambitions have not faded.
The Sun Devils (5-2, 3-1) are fresh off a bye after absorbing their first conference loss of the year against Utah, a team that has matched ASU stride for stride in the running for the South.
“This is a game that, obviously, both teams need,” Edwards said.
WSU and ASU will jockey for position in the Pac-12 standings when they meet at noon Saturday in Sun Devil Stadium.
The parity among several conference teams makes this one difficult to predict.
The Cougs proved last week that they won’t roll over. Edwards went out of his way to commend them for their near-upset of BYU after a week of turmoil.
I’ll give the Sun Devils the nod here, though. Not that it means much in this league, but they’re two-touchdown favorites. And unlike WSU, they had a bye week to refocus.
Quarterback Jayden Daniels and ASU’s potent run game will wear the Cougs’ defense down. WSU’s offense will impress out of the gates but eventually run out of steam against the Pac-12’s top statistical defense.
The pick: Arizona State 31, Washington State 23
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