With its national title hopes all but gone, Arizona State is now trying to keep its BCS bowl hopes from slipping away.
The ninth-ranked Sun Devils look to bounce back from their first loss of the year when they visit banged-up UCLA on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
Arizona State (8-1, 5-1 Pac-10) came into last Saturday's game against then-No. 4 Oregon as one of five undefeated teams in major college football, but was unable to escape Autzen Stadium with a victory. The Sun Devils fell behind 21-3 early in the second quarter, and lost 35-23 to drop three places in the AP Poll.
Their national title dreams were almost certainly eliminated, as they also fell five spots to No. 9 in the BCS standings.
"Obviously guys are down," quarterback Rudy Carpenter said. "We wanted to have a magical season this year, and I think guys have got to understand that we still can. We've only lost one to one of the best teams in the country, so we've just got to come back next week."
Arizona State is still very much in the picture for the Pac-10 title and a Rose Bowl spot, but must finish with wins against UCLA, No. 12 USC and in-state rival Arizona.
"We've still got a lot to play for," said Carpenter, who ranks third in the Pac-10 in passing yards (2,328) and fourth in touchdowns (19). "I think everybody on our team realizes that we can still accomplish the goals that we had set at the beginning of the season. I think we'll be fine."
Carpenter showed no apparent effects from a sprained right thumb against the Ducks. He completed his first seven passes and finished 22-of-36 for 379 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, but was once again under pressure throughout the game.
Carpenter was sacked nine times last Saturday, increasing his season total to 37 - only Stanford and Notre Dame have given up more. He was sacked five times in Arizona State's 24-12 loss to UCLA last season, and when he did get rid of the ball he went 11-for-30 for 149 yards and an interception.
"UCLA is awfully good up front and they bring it pretty good, so we're going to have to make sure we shore it up," Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson said. "We're going to see (blitzes) all the time. That's just how it is, so we just have to adjust."
The injury-plagued Bruins (5-4, 4-2), who were ranked as high as No. 11 on Sept. 9, are trying to get their season back on track after consecutive losses to teams in the bottom half of the Pac-10 standings.
After a 27-7 defeat at Washington State on Oct. 27, UCLA lost 34-27 to Arizona last Saturday. With losses in three of the last four games, speculation has begun about coach Karl Dorrell's job security.
"Our players, they want to play, they want to win, regardless of what's being said and my status," Dorrell said. "There's no control over that, anyway. We can't control any of those things that are being said or talked about. The only thing we can do is play better football and get ourselves a victory."
Osaar Rasshan, the fourth quarterback used by UCLA this year, will likely make his first collegiate start this Saturday after Patrick Cowan suffered a concussion against the Wildcats.
Rasshan entered last Saturday's game in the third quarter and guided the Bruins to a pair of field goals and a touchdown.
"We're encouraged with how he played, played with a lot of courage and heart, making some plays out there," Dorrell said. "His first time on the field, and being a road game, it was pretty encouraging for us to see how he responded."
The Bruins have won four straight home meetings with Arizona State since a 42-34 defeat in 1996.