The Associated Press top 25 hasn't been a kind host to the Arizona State Sun Devils this season, but that doesn't mean Todd Graham's squad wants to fly under the radar all season.
The Sun Devils have twice earned national rankings in the AP poll and in subsequent weeks, they have been bounced from the rankings.
After knocking off Wisconsin on Sept. 14, the Sun Devils woke up on Sunday morning to the news that they received their first national ranking under head coach Todd Graham. The following week, Arizona State traveled to Stanford to take on the vaunted Cardinal and a dismal first half proved to be the Sun Devils' undoing. A 42-28 loss left the Sun Devils in the notorious "Others Receiving Votes" category.
Fortunately for Arizona State, USC rolled into Tempe and the Sun Devils laid down the hammer. A 62-41 victory that ended in Lane Kiffin's firing at USC meant the Sun Devils were headed back into the national spotlight at No. 22. The win could not have come at a better time, as Arizona State prepared to descend on Dallas with a chance to rise even further.
Then, the same-old Sun Devils reared their ugly head. For the past decade, Arizona State has struggled in the spotlight and the bright lights of Dallas were no different. The Sun Devils lost a disappointing 37-34 matchup against a well-respected Notre Dame program, which meant Arizona State would have to wait for another opportunity to make a lasting impression on AP voters.
Finally, that time is here. After dismantling Colorado is a 54-13 demolition on Saturday, Arizona State is poised for another shot on the big stage. This week, the Sun Devils host the No. 20 Washington Huskies, a team that commands respect from the national media.
After climbing to No. 15 in the polls following a 4-0 start, two consecutive losses have only dropped the Huskies five spots. Steve Sarkisian's squad enters Tempe with the No. 20 ranking and defeats against Stanford and Oregon. In each of their losses, the Huskies have played their opponent tight and proved that they belong in the top 25.
So if Arizona State manages to pull off a win in front of a homecoming crowd on Saturday afternoon, the Sun Devils should climb back into the polls. It may be for a fleeting moment, but make no mistake, this is where Arizona State strives to be.
The coaches and players will tell you that they don't pay attention to national rankings. That doesn't mean they don't care about them. Graham and the Sun Devils would give anything for the prominence that comes with a top 25 ranking, because that would mean Arizona State is a program on the rise.
It's incredible how much a top 25 ranking impacts the future of a program. Of the current AP top 25, 17 of those programs have 2014 recruiting classes ranked in Rivals' top 25. Does the success translate more so at the top? Of course it does. Eight of Rivals' top 10 2014 recruiting classes are currently listed in the AP top 25.
At the moment, Rivals ranks Arizona State as having the 37th best recruiting class for the class of 2014. With many prominent recruits including verbal quarterback commit Manny Wilkins appearing in Tempe this Saturday on official visits, a win could do wonders for the program.
Beating Washington isn't just about setting up a run at a Pac-12 South title for this season. It's about setting up consistent runs to the conference title in the future.
Last week, the Sun Devils received seven top 25 votes. A win against Washington might not guarantee a top 25 spot come Sunday, but it would put Todd Graham's squad in much better position than it was before.