Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 11/18/11
TEMPE, Ariz. For Arizona State, the choice is simple, the contrast is stark. With two wins in its final two regular season games: The Sun Devils will likely win the Pac-12 South, is UCLA loses it season finale at USC. The Sun Devils will play in the conference title game, meaning more national exposure for the program and a remote shot at the Rose Bowl With just one loss: They will lose the Pac-12 South, assuming UCLA beats Colorado They will play in a lower tier (i.e. meaningless) bowl game Coach Dennis Erickson will likely lose his job Theres no questions, ifs, ands or buts. We have to win these two games, senior offensive lineman Dan Knapp said. Its funny how it all worked out. Our goals are still attainable. For Arizona, the goals are esoteric. There are no postseason prizes left to chase with a 2-8 record. There are no jobs to save because former coach Mike Stoops has already lost his. And national exposure may be the last thing the Wildcats want for a program that has lost 13 of its last 14 games against FBS opponents. Im not going to sit here and tell you its a bowl-game atmosphere for us. Its not, said interim coach Tim Kish, whose team was pounded 48-29 at lowly Colorodo last week, providing the low point in a bottom-feeder of a season. We have to regroup this week. We have to have a sense of purpose. The Wildcats purpose may best be compared to that of a bitter divorce. As is often the case with this rivalry, which rarely pits two teams enjoying big seasons at the same time, joy can only be found in the misery of a rival. "I've never liked them, said Arizona quarterback Nick Foles, apparently forgetting that he once committed to ASU. I hate them, so that's all I need to go play against them." There is no meaningful success Arizona can achieve through victory. Kish will not return as coach, and even if athletic director Greg Byrne is successful in landing the big name hes chasing (Arizona isnt a plum job for a big-time coach), the Wildcats will deal with the same issues that almost always plague a team in transition: Loss of recruits and time to implement new offensive and defensive schemes. All the Wildcats can do Saturday is set a tone. Nothing will change without the discipline factor being involved. I feel its even more necessary a month into it, Kish said. The culture is definitely important, its got to be a positive one, theres got to be a focus and the attitude has got to be right. ASU lost that culture the past two weeks in dumb-founding losses at UCLA and Washington State that robbed the Devils of a chance to roll into the conference title game with a head of steam. Once in the discussion for conference coach of the year, Erickson finds himself back where he started the season: Defending his presence. I would be lying if I said that we werent aware of it. We are, quarterback Brock Osweiler said. That just goes with the game of football. If you dont win, youre probably going to get fired. If you dont produce as a player, youre probably not going to start. Erickson isnt above scrutiny for his teams failings on the road this season, but if kicker Alex Garoutte had made a couple field goals (at Illinois and in Pasadena), and if the secondary hadnt suffered collective brain lock in Pullman, Wash., this season wouldnt be teetering on the brink. We had a chance to be where we hadnt been before, Erickson said. But I still look at the light at the end of the tunnel. If we do win those football games, then we do still have a chance to win our division and still have that opportunity. Its not totally gone. We have to worry about ourselves, thats the most important thing.
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