It hasn't been an easy season for Arizona State quarterback Danny Sullivan, but often adversity brings enlightenment. Sullivan, it seems, understands the Pac-10 -- and college football for that matter -- perfectly. "You can be a good team the first week and completely change the next week just based on who you are playing and how they are trying to exploit you," he said. California, which visits Sullivan and the Sun Devils on Saturday (3:30 EST, ABC), certainly understands that. The Bears were ranked sixth in the country and then -- whammo! -- consecutive losses to Oregon and USC by a combined count of 72-6 slapped them onto the slag heap of also-rans.
But, quietly, the Bears have won two in a row and may be poised to make a run. Arizona State, meanwhile, went to Stanford last weekend to prove it was a conference contender and it ended up getting pushed around on both sides of the ball. A defense that had been ranked among the nation's elite surrendered 473 yards, including 237 yards rushing. "Physically, Stanford kicked our rear ends," said coach Dennis Erickson, cutting directly to the chase. Still, there are plenty of examples of Pac-10 teams righting themselves after bad moments. See Oregon after the Boise State debacle. See Oregon State just about every year. If Arizona State upsets the Bears, its bowl hopes brighten considerably. If Cal wins, it may re-enter the national rankings -- the Bears are 24th in the BCS standings -- and still could become a player in the conference race.