Arizona State's stock has crashed

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson knew his answer sounded trite, but it also rang true.

What do Erickson's Sun Devils need to do to snap out of their funk?

They need to practice hard and play better, he said.

"It's not that we haven't practiced well," he added. "It's that we haven't taken it to the game field."

It's been a monumentally disappointing season for the Sun Devils, who were ranked 15th in the preseason and started 2-0 but have since lost five in a row.

They head to Oregon State on Saturday trying to avoid the program's first six-game losing streak since 1929 (and, yes, there seems to be some symmetry there considering the state of all of our stock portfolios).

"It's discouraging when you lose five games in a row but we've got to fight through it," Erickson said.

There are some obvious reasons for the Sun Devils' sorry state.

  • The offensive line has been mostly overwhelmed, particularly in the run game, which ranks 114th in the nation (87 yards per game).

  • Quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who's played with a sprained ankle the past two games, hasn't been sacked as much as last year but he's been hit a lot and is banged up. That's started to show in his sometimes erratic performances.

  • Moreover, Carpenter's supporting skill players -- running back Keegan Herring and receivers Michael Jones and Chris McGaha -- have been injured. Herring has missed nearly the entire season and hasn't been terribly effective when playing, and Jones and McGaha haven't matched last year's production while trying to play through injuries.

  • The defense has been OK, but it's not good enough to carry an impotent offense. And it was no match for Oregon last week, yielding 537 total yards, including an embarrassing 304 yards on the ground.

Erickson isn't one to make excuses.

"The reality right now is we're not playing very well," he said.

The reality is preseason prognostications overrated the offensive skill players' ability to carry the Sun Devils, and when those guys got banged up, things fell apart.

A year ago, Arizona State was rising while simultaneously enjoying rival Arizona's struggles under coach Mike Stoops.

Now the Wildcats have captured the momentum while the Sun Devils are languishing.

"With the expectations high, it's obviously more disappointing to our fans," Erickson said.

Playing at surging Oregon State seems a tough order, but the next three games -- at Washington, Washington State and UCLA -- are winnable.

And concluding the season with a victory over those Wildcats, which could mean bowl eligibility, would go a long way toward healing the wounds of a lost season.