TEMPE, AZ - Maybe the most formidable foe on ASU's 2013 schedule isn't listed as an opponent. It's ASU itself. At least, that's according to the person responsible for the schedule.
"That's what we've talked about this week is making sure that we don't beat ourselves," Graham said after practice on Tuesday. "We're playing against a really good defense."
True that, as the college kids might say. Believe it or not, USC might come to Tempe ranked 106 th nationally in total offense, despite All-American receiver Marqise Lee, but the Trojans boast one of the nation's best scoring defenses – just 11 points per game allowed – after wins against Boston College, Utah State and Hawaii along with a disappointing 10-7 home loss to Washington State.
In the last two weeks, the officials got a big assist in a controversial ASU win against Wisconsin before the Sun Devils went to #5 Stanford and trailed 39-7 at the end of three quarters before mounting a late rally in a 42-28 setback.
"We lost five possessions last week," said Graham, who cited two blocked punts, two dropped passes and an interception that set up an easy Stanford touchdown. "You can't lose possessions."
A balanced offense would also keep a fierce USC pass rush off quarterback Taylor Kelly. Thing is, the Sun Devils have struggled to run the ball recently. The past two games, ASU has rushed for 166 yards total, including just 50 against Stanford.
"If you take all the mistakes we made and if you take half of those out, we probably win the game," Graham said. "Those things happen because you're playing a really good football team and you're not very well prepared or disciplined about what we're doing."
"They're a talented team with great players," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "It's going to be a tough test, especially playing on the road."
The loser at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday night falls to 0-2 in the Pac-12 conference.
"What if we just came out and played disciplined and didn't have those things?" Graham wondered aloud to the media.
What if? No question that is the question.