Top 25 countdown


The Times’ Chris Dufresne unveils his preseason college football top 25, one day (and team) at a time:

No. 16 Arizona State

Budget cuts forced Arizona State to drop a couple of sports in the off-season, but football wasn’t one of them, so second-year Coach Dennis Erickson is thrilled to be back.

“For me it’s just great to be anywhere every year,” the venerable Erickson joked.

It has always been tough to get a read on the Sun Devils. Arizona State tends to play well when no one’s looking, but not so well when it’s in the spotlight’s glare.


Last year, Arizona State was picked to finish fourth in the Pacific 10 Conference but ended up tied for first. This year, the Sun Devils have been picked to finish -- gulp -- second behind USC, ratcheting up those evil expectations.

Can Arizona State, collectively, pull its chin over the Pac-10 title bar?

In 2004, an Arizona State team led by quarterback Andrew Walter took a 6-0 record into the Coliseum and left with a 45-7 loss to USC.

A year later, Arizona State blew a 21-3 halftime lead to the Trojans, and last year the Sun Devils were 9-1 before they hosted USC for Thanksgiving dinner and 9-2 when it came time to serve dessert.

This season’s loss to USC has been scheduled for Oct. 11 in Los Angeles -- or maybe this year will be different.

Arizona State, coming off a 10-3 campaign, gets a running start in 2008 while Erickson keeps loading the roster with quality recruiting classes. Quarterback Rudy Carpenter passed for 3,202 and 25 touchdowns last year behind an offensive line that gave up 55 sacks -- a problem that has to be solved.

We’re not ready to start talking like it’s 1996, when Jake Plummer led Arizona State to the Rose Bowl and the brink of a national title. Yet this Sun Devils team, like that one, has a chance to make a poll-jumping national statement.


In 1996, Arizona State shocked Nebraska, 19-0, in Tempe, sending the Sun Devils off on their glorious course.

This year, on Sept. 20, Georgia comes to town. Many think Georgia is the team to beat in college football this year.

Imagine a scenario Oct. 11 at the Coliseum in which USC is unbeaten with a win over Ohio State, and Arizona State is unscathed with a victory over Georgia.

No one in Tempe, though, needs to go there yet.


The countdown so far:

25, Notre Dame; 24, California; 23, Fresno State; 22, Florida State; 21, Rutgers; 20, Illinois; 19, Penn State; 18, Oregon; 17, Tennessee; 16, Arizona State.