Arizona St.-California Preview
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Arizona State's run of success under coach Todd Graham began, coincidentally, with a late September trip to California in 2012.
Back then the Sun Devils were in the middle of putting together their first winning season in five years, but the rookie coach was still looking for a signature victory to establish the program.
A 27-17 road win over the Golden Bears provided exactly that and wound up being the springboard Graham and his program needed.
It's a memory that resonates even more now with Graham as Arizona State prepares to play California for the first time since then.
''Winning breeds winning,'' Graham said. ''It's not easy. But I think that game, when we went over there and won, was big to change that. That started it, and then obviously we've built upon that.''
Arizona State had lost four straight and eight of nine to California before winning at Memorial Stadium three years ago. The two teams meet there again Saturday, though the stakes are significantly different.
While both teams are already bowl eligible, each is trying to build some momentum for the postseason push.
California (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12) is sputtering after opening the season 5-0 and hasn't defeated a team with a winning record since tripping up Washington State on Oct. 3. The Bears also haven't won seven games or more since 2011 - a big motivator for quarterback Jared Goff.
''If you can go into a bowl game 7-5 as opposed to 6-6, you can finish with an eight-win season,'' Goff said. ''I don't know recently how many Cal teams have finished with eight wins but that would be a huge thing for us. That eight-win mark is a big deal and something we want to do.''
Arizona State (6-5, 4-4) has won two straight following a three-game skid and is coming off an emotional draining win last week over rival Arizona.
Graham was concerned how his team would respond after beating the Wildcats and emphasized that with both his players and assistants.
''I told our staff we need to be the most organized we've been,'' Graham said. ''This is all about who wants it. We've got to want it and get back up, and I know these guys will rise to the occasion.''
Here are some things to watch for when California hosts Arizona State:
GOFF'S MEMORIAL FINALE? While he has yet to announce his plans for 2016, Goff could be playing in his final home game for California. The Bears' quarterback has been touted as a likely first-round draft pick should he forgo his senior season, which would then make Saturday's game at Memorial Stadium Goff's last.
Goff, though, isn't getting too caught up in the hype. To him, it's just another game on the schedule.
''I'm just trying to win the game and not worry about that stuff right now,'' Goff said. ''Right now I'm just trying to beat Arizona State, go to 7-5 and then go to a bowl game and win that. That's all I can really worry about now. I owe it to myself and my teammates to do that.''
LONGINO ON A ROLL: Goff should have a field day against Arizona State's pass defense, provided he can avoid from Sun Devils linebacker Antonio Longino. Longino has 11 sacks this season and 32 for his career, four coming last week against Arizona.
''He's a guy that can play inside or outside linebacker, and now he's shown this year he can land on the end of the line of scrimmage and really play well,'' Graham said. ''I don't think we've had anybody that's developed and improved any more than what he has.''
SIMONE ON THE SIDELINES: Jordan Simone's season ended prematurely two weeks when he sustained a season-ending knee injury. Simone, who was the Pac-12's second-leading tackler before getting hurt, had previously talked about getting into journalism after college but might be changing his mind after spending last week helping coach some of the Sun Devils' defensive backs while standing on the sidelines. ''Coach Graham always tells me he wants me to be a coach, but I haven't really decided on anything right now,'' Simone said.
SAFETY SHAKEUP: California will be down to its third-string safety for the game, though the Bears aren't quite certain who it will be. With Damariay Drew sidelined with a knee injury and backup Griffin Piatt out with a broken collarbone, the Bears will rely on either Khari Vanderbilt, Derron Brown or Luke Rubenzer. ''We've got some injuries there but the good thing is we have depth,'' California coach Sonny Dykes said.