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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON PAC-10 FOOTBALL

Arizona State needs to come up big in this game

The Sun Devils are 3-26 against ranked teams since 2000, which lends an extra sense of urgency to Saturday's game at No. 17 Georgia.

September 23, 2009|CHRIS DUFRESNE

Arizona State football has a history in big games, but this isn't a subject a Tempe student would want to major in.

The Sun Devils, who face No. 17 Georgia this week in Athens, are 3-26 against top-25 teams since 2000. The program is also winless in four tries against the Southeastern Conference.

Saturday's game between the hedges, though, is another important game in the Pac-10/SEC rivalry and a game third-year Arizona State Coach Dennis Erickson needs to win to bolster his program's national credibility.

"We'll find out a little bit about ourselves," Erickson said Tuesday on a conference call. "We need to find out where we're at."

Victories over Idaho State and Louisiana Monroe were nothing like the challenge that awaits the Sun Devils in Georgia.

Two weeks ago, UCLA proved a Pac-10 school other than USC could take down an SEC school on Southern soil when the Bruins pulled off an upset at Tennessee.

Georgia dominated Arizona State last year in Tempe, 27-10, but that Georgia team was ranked No. 1 in the preseason and had Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno in the backfield.

This Georgia team is vulnerable, especially on defense -- the Bulldogs have given up 37 and 41 points in SEC victories against South Carolina and Arkansas.

Georgia ranks No. 97 in total defense and is No. 108 out of 120 teams in scoring defense, allowing 34 points a game.

Erickson maintains it's still a quality defense.

"They've given up some real big plays," he said. "That's probably the biggest thing that's happened."

Arizona State does have one big problem: All-America kicker Thomas Weber has been lost for possibly six weeks because of a groin injury, leaving the kicking chores to either walk-on freshman Bobby Wenzig or 26-year-old linebacker Mike Nixon.

Wenzig's name isn't even listed in the school's media guide. Nixon, a former catcher in the Dodgers organization, enjoyed some kicking success at Phoenix's Sunnyslope High -- he made six field goals . . . in 2001.

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Guaranteed

Oregon Coach Chip Kelly would not confirm or deny an Internet story that he reimbursed $439 for expenses to a disgruntled fan who made the trip to witness the Ducks' abysmal season-opening loss at Boise State.

"I've got no comment on that; we're getting ready to play California," Kelly said. Oregon's media relations department said it does not comment on Kelly's interaction with fans.

The story, posted by everydayshouldbesaturday.com, stated that Tony Seminary, an Oregon graduate and season-ticket holder, wrote Kelly to convey his embarrassment over the defeat that ended with LeGarrette Blount's punching a Boise State player. His e-mail read in part, "I'm entitled to my money back for the trip," and attached an invoice.

Seminary told the website the invoice was a joke, but Kelly responded with a request for his address. A few days later, Seminary told the website, he received a check for $439, signed by Charles Kelly. Seminary said he did not cash the check, and thought what Kelly did was "simply amazing," but he wanted to discourage other Ducks fans from making similar requests.

OK, but what about USC fans who made the trip last weekend to Seattle?

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Of note

USC Coach Pete Carroll reiterated Tuesday that Washington quarterback Jake Locker was the best he has faced in eight-plus years at USC. For what it's worth, in the 2005 season Bowl Championship Series title game, Texas quarterback Vince Young passed for 267 yards and rushed for 200 in the Longhorns' 41-38 win over the Trojans. . . .

Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh on the return of Locker from an injury in 2008: "It's great for Washington, a little scary for all of us."

Washington is playing at Stanford this week for first place in the early Pac-10 race. Washington State is at USC in a battle of two last-place schools. . . .

California Coach Jeff Tedford thinks his sixth-ranked team will be able to handle the expectations of being a national title contender. In 2007, the Bears were on the brink of becoming No. 1 in the country before losing six of their last eight games. "Two years ago, I think we may have lacked a little focus on details, which was mostly my fault," Tedford said. "But this is a different team."

Cal returns Saturday to Oregon, where in 2007 the Bears beat the Ducks, 31-24, a game in which Oregon was stopped at the end just feet short of a tying touchdown. . . .

Do these look like Heisman Trophy numbers? Cal tailback Jahvid Best, in three victories, has scored eight touchdowns, averaged 137.3 yards rushing a game and 7.8 yards a carry.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/DufresneLATimes

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