Welcome to the entire future of Arizona State football.
The past, present and future all meet Friday. It is impossible to over-hype this game. There is so much on the line that this is one of the biggest games in the history of the program.
I can easily understand any old school fans that think the 1958 shut-out of UofA after Tucson's work to block Arizona State College from achieving university status meant much more.
Since the win over UofA in 1968 led directly to the creation of what has now become a BCS bowl game, hard to argue with the significance of that game. The catch is (in hindsight) the game has ended up having a deeper significance nationally than it has within ASU.
I, of course, grant you playing in a Rose Bowl makes both of those appearances more valuable to the past and future of Arizona State Football.
I'm continually reminded by fans how huge the win against Nebraska was that almost led to a national championship.
Let me try to sell you why I think Friday's game means almost as much as the great games in the history of the school.
1) Attendance: It's no secret that Phoenix is a huge bandwagon town. No one wants to admit they're not a good fan but it's obvious. The Diamondbacks don't sell out playoff games. The Coyotes don't seem to exist until April no matter how good they are. With Friday being close to a sell-out, ASU needs a win to entice those fans to come back.
2) BCS: ASU players chant "BCS" at the end of practice. ASU and the Pac-12 is not a strong enough conference to compete for a national championship with a loss so going undefeated is a pre-requisite if you want to be in the conversation. However, if ASU wins 12 games and loses the Pac-12 championship game, they have a great shot at a BCS at-large invite.
3) Dennis Erickson: Seems pretty simple. If Dennis Erickson has a stellar season and gets the team to an Alamo Bowl, he gets a contract extension. Sun Bowl or less and ASU might begin a coaching search. This team is built to win now.
4) ESPN: U of A lost the 1st quarter 21-0 Thursday night on ESPN. Fair or not, the rest of the nation thinks they stink. Losing on national television when you're the only game on TV hurts worse than your average loss.
5) Conference realignment: This is my wild card reason. I completely believe Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will be in the "Pac-12" next year. There's a chance more could be coming, including Texas. If Oklahoma and Texas are both members of the conference next year, how many times will ASU compete for the BCS?
Look at the history of the Big 12 Championship game. Oklahoma or Texas was in every game except two. Oklahoma State has been 8-4 three times and 10-2 once, yet that was never good enough to get in to the Big 12 Championship game.
If ASU doesn't have a season for the ages this year, when do you expect it to happen? Do you think the near future is brighter with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas on the schedule every year?
I'm not trying to sell you that Missouri is the best visiting opponent to come into Sun Devil Stadium. There have been more talented and more prestigious teams in here before. ASU has played in bigger games in the past, but not many.
The weight of Friday's game has less to do with the past and more to do with the program's future.