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Originally published Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 9:08 PM

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Arizona State seeks bowl eligibility against Cougars

Todd Graham's seemingly eternal optimism remains unblinking, even in the midst of Arizona State's four-game losing streak, something that...

The Spokesman-Review

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I think this game is going to be surprising for a lot of people. If WSU plays the way... MORE

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Todd Graham's seemingly eternal optimism remains unblinking, even in the midst of Arizona State's four-game losing streak, something that became an annual tradition under former Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson.

But here's where those slides differ: Erickson's teams started each year with reasonably high expectations before ultimately falling apart down the stretch.

And while Graham certainly holds the Sun Devils to a higher standard than simply finishing 6-6 and making a bowl game — even in his first season as coach — he didn't bother diminishing the value of a possible win over Washington State on Saturday.

"It's always going to be about championships," Graham said. "(But) going and winning this game and getting bowl eligible is paramount right now."

It's something he admits he talks about with his team. This week isn't just about beating the Cougars. It's about getting a sixth win and assuring bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season.

This one might feel a little different from the last, which resulted in a 6-6 regular-season finish and a loss to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl. ASU ended the year on a five-game losing streak that ultimately cost Erickson his job.

Not since 2010 have the Sun Devils won a November game. But their four consecutive losses this season — to No. 1 Oregon, No. 17 UCLA, No. 15 Oregon State and No. 21 USC — have come against considerably better competition.

"I think their level of competition changed a little bit," WSU coach Mike Leach said. "I think part of it, they played better people.

"I don't know how deep they are so I think they're probably getting thin like a lot of teams are this time of year, but I think they're still explosive and I think they're a very good team."


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