Gary Doran

Conference Road Contests: Not All Fun & Games

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As the Sun Devils get ready this week to play their first conference road game of 2014 in Boulder, Colorado, we take some time to look back at how ASU has done in its previous 36 years of Pac-10, and now Pac-12, conference road games outside the state of Arizona.  That’s right, it has been 36 full seasons of games in Washington, Oregon, California, and recently in Utah and Colorado. (As you can see, we are not counting the games in Tucson as away contest for this article.)

In their 36 years as a member of the Pacific Athletic Conference, ASU has played a total of 120 conference road games outside the state of Arizona, with a combined record of 53-65-2 for a 45% winning percentage.  Clearly, it is tough to win on the road in conference play, and the numbers indicate that it got tougher as time went along.  Actually, the very first road game may have been ASU’s roughest, because it would end up drastically affecting Sun Devil football in a very major way.  On October 28, 1978, Frank Kush and his 5-1 Sun Devils went to Seattle to face the 4-3 Washington Huskies.  The Devil lost the game miserably 41-7 that day, but even worse, that is the game in which Kush reportedly punched punter Kevin Rutledge eventually leading to his firing the next year.  That first game may have been a precursor for Sun Devil fans on just how rough it was going to be playing on the road in the new conference.

Including Kush and interim coach B. Owens together, there have been eight different head coaches leading the Devils into conference road games over the past 36 years.  Here is a look at how each has done:

 

Conference Road Record                                                         

Coach             Began Ended                W    L         T            %

Kush/Owens              1978   1979       2      3                    40.0%

Rogers                        1980   1984       7      5         1          58.3%

Cooper           1985   1987       6      3                    66.7%

Marmie           1988   1991       6      5         1          54.5%

Snyder            1992   2000     15    16                   48.4%

Koetter           2001   2006       5     17                  22.7%

Erickson         2007   2011     7     13                   35.0%

Graham          2012       –          5       3                    62.5%

53     65         2          44.9%

The table really reflects just how poor Dirk Koetter did in winning conference games on the road. Also that Larry Marmie actually had a positive conference winning record on the road, something three coaches after him, Snyder, Koetter and Erickson couldn’t do.  It also brings up the point of how rough things had gotten when Coach Graham arrived, because the combined conference road records of his two predecessors, (Koetter and Erickson) was a very weak 12-30, (28.5 percent).

 

Here is a look at how ASU has fared with its conference opponents on the road by team:

W     L    T                 %

COLO           2       0       100.0%

UTAH          1       0       100.0%

WSU            9       6       60.0%

OSU             7       6    1            53.8%

WASH        6       7        46.2%

ORE            7       9        43.8%

STAN         6       8        42.9%

UCLA          6     10    1             37.5%

CAL            5       9        35.7%

USC            4    10      28.6%

TOTAL     53   65    2           44.9%

The Devils have winning records on the road against only two of the original PAC 8 teams, Washington State and Oregon State.  Its overall record against the currently elite Oregon Ducks of 7-9 points to the fact that the Ducks were far from the same team back in the 70s and 80s.  Additionally, its overall poor record against a currently struggling Cal Bear teams also reminds us that the fortunes of some teams rise and fall over time.  Then there’s the USC Trojans in the LA Coliseum.  Not a lot of fun memories there in the last 36 years for Sun Devil fans.

 

If we clump ASU’s conference road games into three timeframes, we can see how the teams have performed over time.  Here are the results:

W    L    T       %

Prior to 1990 (12 years)——–18   13   2      58.1

The 1990s (10 years)————17   17   0     50.0

Since 2000 (14 years)———–18    35   0     34.0

TOTAL                                             53   65   2     44.9

Each succeeding time period saw a decline in the winning percentage, and the trend in the 21st Century was sorely headed in the wrong direction.  Since 2000, ASU has lost roughly two-out-of-every-three road conference games it has played out of state.  Those numbers would be even rougher without the three wins and no losses registered with the newest conference member states of Colorado and Utah.

 

One other way to look at how the Devils have performed in their conference road games is by region.  Here is a look at the results broken down by five regions for the PAC 12 teams:

REGION                            W       L     T         %

State of Washington:   15      13     0      53.6     (Wash & WSU)

State of Oregon:             14     15     1      48.3     (Ore & OSU)

The Bay Area:                 11     17     0      39.3     (Stan & Cal)

Southern Cal:                  10     20     1      33.3     (USC & UCLA)

Western Mountains:       3        0     0    100.0    (Colo & Utah)

TOTAL                              53     65    2      44.9

Not counting the Western Mountain region, it seems that the further away the road games are from Tempe, the better the Devils play.  As the away games get closer and closer to the ASU campus, the winning percentages seem to fall.  Also, a glaring road weakness is that ASU has been downright awful in the entire state of California since 2000, as ASU has won less than 15 percent of the away games played in the Golden State in that time, (4-23).

 

SCORING IN CONFERENCE AWAY GAMES

ASU    FOE      DIFF

California       20.29    25.93    -5.64

Oregon           25.75    28.31    -2.56

OSU                 26.00    23.43     2.57

USC                 19.57    23.43    -3.86

Stanford         28.86    28.00     0.86

UCLA                 24.71   27.65    -2.94

Washington   20.15    24.85    -4.70

WSU                28.53    26.67     1.86

AVERAGE       24.62   26.65   -2.03

ASU scored the most average points against Stanford, WSU and OSU, two out of the three teams they had winning records against.  They scored the fewest points against USC, Washington and California.  It interesting that even though ASU had a losing record against Stanford, they ended up outscoring them.  Additionally, the team that had the biggest spread point differential against ASU was none other than the Cal Bears, 5.64, followed by Washington and then USC.

 

INTERESTING CONFERENCE ROAD GAME STATS:

– ASU didn’t lose its first away game in the state of Oregon until 1990

– During the 1990’s ASU didn’t lose an away game to UCLA (3-0) or to Stanford (3-0)

– The 2012 ASU victory in Berkeley was the first win there since 1997.

– ASU has only beaten Stanford in Palo Alto once since 1997 (1-6)

– ASU’s win against UCLA in the Rose Bowl last year was the first victory there since Jake Plummer’s Rose Bowl team in 1996.

– Since 2000, ASU is 2-13 playing in Southern California, (both wins against UCLA).

– Up until 2000, ASU was 4-3 against USC in the LA Coliseum, since then they are (0-7).

– Up until 2000, ASU was 5-2 against Stanford in Palo Alto, since then they are (1-6).

– ASU has not lost to Washington in Seattle since 1997, (4-0)

– ASU has not gone without a conference road loss in a season since 1996.

– From 1978 to 2002, ASU only lost one game in Corvallis, (6-1-1), since then they have only won one game there, (1-5).

– ASU didn’t win its first game in LA until 1983, when it beat USC 34-14.

About Gary Doran

Gary Doran

Gary graduated from ASU many years ago. After careers working in banking, finance and the financial administration of academic research funding, he is now interested in utilizing his passion for numbers towards two things he thoroughly loves; Arizona State University and college football. He is looking forward to finding the “stories” buried within the numbers on a football stat sheet. He has gone to ASU football games all the way back to the days of Frank Kush and the WAC. He has been married to an amazing ASU graduate for almost forty years, and they currently live in Ventura, CA. Although this may disqualify him from talking football, he and his wife enjoy the practice of yoga and dancing the Argentine Tango. Ole!

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