Feature: Sun Devils Enter Football Season With High Hopes

Aug. 4, 2008

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -The Arizona State Sun Devils enter their second season under coach Dennis Erickson loaded with experience and expecting to challenge for the Pac-10 title.

'It's definitely not going to be an easy task to win the Pac-10,' wide receiver Chris McGaha said at the team's media day on Sunday, 'but I think our team is capable of it.'

The Sun Devils were 10-3 in Erickson's first season, and at 7-2 were tied with USC for first in the conference. But the Trojans earned the Rose Bowl berth by virtue of their 44-24 victory over the Sun Devils in Tempe.

'Last year we did a good job of winning the games we were supposed to win, and we didn't do a good job of winning the games maybe we felt we could have won,' linebacker Mike Nixon said. 'This year we have to take that next step if we want to be talking about the BCS or any of that.'

Quarterback Rudy Carpenter enters his senior season on a string of 31 consecutive starts. He said he weighs 225 pounds, 20 pounds heavier than last season.

'I thought I was a little small playing at 205, and I felt I got wore down a little bit toward the end of the year,' Carpenter said. 'I felt if I put on some weight, some muscle I could maybe last a little bit longer, be stronger toward the end of the season.'

The team opens at home Aug. 30 against Northern Arizona, but the schedule gets a lot tougher. The Sun Devils are the only team to play both Georgia and USC - the top two teams in the preseason coaches' poll.

Arizona State is home against Georgia on Sept. 20, then plays at California, at USC and home against Oregon.

'Part of me loves it because it's going to be a great opportunity for us as a university and for us as a football team to show what we can do against some of the best teams in the country,' Carpenter said. 'Then again, it's pretty rough. That can be a pretty difficult stretch. If we don't take care of business we could be hurting at that time of the year.'

Arizona State won't be having its traditional training session at Camp Tontozona, in the mountains east of Payson. Instead, the Sun Devils will stay home and use their new indoor practice facility to escape the heat.

Arizona State will have a scrimmage at Tontozona on Aug. 16.

Erickson said he has nothing against Tontozona. But the old camp doesn't have the amenities that a modern football program needs.

'There's an advantage to staying home as far as facilities and film work, our weight room and all those things,' Erickson said.

Seven starters return on offense and seven on defense.

The biggest question mark, Erickson said, is on the offensive line. Richard Tuitu'u, a junior who was expected to start at right tackle, won't return.

'He decided not to play football,' Erickson said. 'I wouldn't call it a blow, but there's another guy who's not going to play.'

Everybody knows the road to the Pac-10 title runs through USC.

'It's the bar everybody in our league has to get over. That's just how it is,' Erickson said. 'They've been beat. They've lost games. They're human like any other football team.'

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