Well, that escalated quickly. Just when everyone thought Arizona State played its biggest game of the season already, Notre Dame shows up in Tempe, and the game suddenly becomes the most important one this week in terms of the college football playoff.
The Sun Devils are looking for revenge against a Notre Dame team it should have defeated last year. But uncharacteristic mistakes by Taylor Kelly and the defense allowed the Irish to sneak out of Dallas with a win.
If the Sun Devils are going to reverse the outcome this year, they'll need to prevail in the matchup of the week:
Arizona State front seven vs. Notre Dame run game
In last years contest, the Irish only averaged 3.9 yards per carry. But those who watched the game will surely remember all of the nagging, little runs by Notre Dame that continued drives and wore out the Sun Devil defense.
That can't happen again this season, especially with Wednesday's news that both Jaxon Hood and Demetrius Cherry are unlikely to play.
The Sun Devils need their role players to step and make plays throughout the game. The key here is to not try and be a hero; don't be something you aren't. If your assignment is to occupy the B gap and allow a blitzing linebacker space to penetrate, do so.
Assignments will be key.
The Irish run the ball well, averaging 4.5 yards per carry and 169.4 yards per game as a team. But they are predictable, and lack explosiveness when Tarean Folston gets a rest. For some reason, Brian Kelly and his staff insist on feeding Cam McDaniel the ball. While he's a bigger back, and runs hard, he also runs slow and does little to try and avoid contact. McDaniel averages just 3.5 yards per carry, and sophomore Greg Bryant rarely sees the field despite being considerably better to this point.
That means the Sun Devils need to focus on containing Folston and limiting quarterback Everett Golson's scrambling.
When Golson has to sit in the pocket and make reads, he struggles. Throughout his entire career, Golson has been a turnover machine when he can't rely on play-action and his mobility to make plays.
Think back to the national championship game against Alabama. The Crimson Tide did a great job of taking the run game away early and forcing Golson to beat him with his arm.
We all remember how that ended.
Nobody is confusing this Sun Devils defense with Alabama's, especially with the holes created up front minus Hood and Cherry. But the idea is the same, and it's all about execution.
The ascendance of Viliami Latu up the depth chart should be noted here. While he's far from a prototypical lineman, and in fact at just 260 pounds he's quite small for the trenches, Latu has impressed the coaching staff with his strong understanding of the game and his assignments.
I'd expect Latu to be tasked with setting the edge and allowing Marcus Hardison to work inside, freeing up space for the linebacking corps to make plays.
This is another process to pay attention to, though. Salamo Fiso and D.J. Calhoun both need to play the game with their eyes. What that means is they need to find the football with their eyes and not let anything else detract them from following the ball.
The Irish will certainly try and run a lot of play-action and rollout plays for Golson, and if either of Arizona State's leaders in the middle of the field start going with their gut feelings, or start reacting based on the looks the offensive line and running backs are giving instead of following the ball, Golson will have time to make plays down the field. This is when he's at his best.
Latu, Edmond Boateng, Hardison, Fiso and Calhoun are the important players here for the Sun Devils. Forcing the Irish into second and long, third and long and not allowing Golson to scramble and make plays with his feet and eyes will absolutely determine how this game goes.
There's little doubt in my mind that the Sun Devils have the talent to compete with Notre Dame. The question now is whether or not they have the experience up front to play with one of the best-coached teams in America.