ASU’s next challenge: ’tis the season for distractions

SAN DIEGO, CA-The holiday season is a time for reflection.

An opportunity to slow life down, show love and gratitude to ones close to you and take a break from the “routine.”

The last can be a slippery slope for head football coaches like Arizona State’s Todd Graham and others who find themselves juggling various circumstances both in and around their team as they prepare for said bowl game. Some may be good. Others not so much. From the conclusion of the 12, or in ASU’s case, 13-game regular season grind to the stress of final exams and the Christmas season, there’s just a lot going on away from the football field.

As Graham and ASU arrived Christmas night here in San Diego to red jackets and a mariachi band following the barely one-hour flight, there is still one test left to pass Monday night.

Upon his arrival barely two years ago Graham promised a program overhaul which included Pac-12 Championships and Rose Bowl appearances. He build on last season’s success and won the South a week before keeping the Territorial Cup in Tempe for the second-straight year.

Despite being overmatched and essentially manhandled by Stanford for the second time in about 80 days, things are good in the 480. Graham has placed the 14th-ranked Sun Devils (10-3), at least for now, back on the college football map. He has openly pledged his loyalty to school and his staff. In turn some, like Mike Norvell, have been rewarded for theirs. The staff has already landed 2014 four-star verbal commitments from kids in Arizona, Colorado, California and Oregon.

On paper the Devils’ National University Holiday Bowl matchup against 7-5 Texas Tech looks like a mismatch. The Red Raiders have lost five-straight and their defense has been well, defenseless. The guys from Lubbock have allowed close to 50 points a game during the skid and even finished with a losing record in the Big 12 (4-5).

Heck, the wise guys in Vegas have ASU favored by two touchdowns.

Shouldn’t be a problem, right?

Right?

You see, strange things happen this time of year.

The people in Lubbock don’t really like this d-word: defense. Let’s hope the Sun Devils and their fans don’t hear one: distractions.

Please enjoy your stay here in one of Arizona’s most popular retreat destinations. Take time to gaze at the giant pandas at the zoo and get drenched by Shamu but remember this is also a business trip. An opportunity to send the seniors out right and become only the sixth team in program history to win 11 games. A building block for the future and momentum heading into 2014.

Graham means what he says and says what he means.

Clearly, the future of ASU football is bright.

For now let’s just worry about the present.