No coach will ever admit this, but they all do it.
Every good coach is competitive. That competitiveness causes them to take losses personally. Good coaches cannot handle getting beat and when they do, they mentally circle the date when they play that team again, saying to themselves “we owe them one”.
Of course, this approach can be dangerous. If a coach or coordinator fixates too much on one single opponent, it can cause them to lose focus on the immediate game they are about to play. At this level, every game is “lose-able”. Overlooking an opponent to get ready for another can be disastrous.
Yet, coaches do it all the time. For ASU, coach Todd Graham undoubtedly has circled the Stanford game on October 18 in Tempe. All the coaches and players have. Stanford beat them twice last year including a whooping in the PAC-12 championship game. The Sun Devils will be licking their chops for that game. However, the game before Stanford is USC. The Trojans probably feel the same way about ASU last season. The Sun Devils laid the hammer down on USC last year and that Trojan team will want revenge as well. ASU will be on the road for that game. The Sun Devils will have their hands too full to be worrying about Stanford.
One advantage ASU might have is that there is a bye week between USC and Stanford. This will give the Sun Devils two weeks to prepare for the Cardinal. Bye weeks are good for a lot of reasons, but keeping the focus on your present opponent might be the best thing about having that particular bye week.
Then on November 8th, the Fighting Irish from Notre Dame come to visit Tempe. Last year, ASU played a sloppy game against the Irish and got beat on National Television. Most people thought ASU was the better team in that game and should have won. That’s an excellent bar stool discussion, but ASU lost and they’ll want revenge.
The same concept applies. The week before Notre Dame is Utah. Last season, the Utes almost beat ASU. In that game, the Sun Devils had to rally late to win. In fact, it can be argued that ASU didn’t rally as much as Utah suffered a meltdown on offense. Regardless, Utah will be hungry for payback of being robbed at home last year and they’ll be counting on ASU looking ahead to the “big game” against Notre Dame.
Coach Graham cannot let his “circling of dates” interfere with his preparation for each and every opponent. Devils in Detail doesn’t believe that coach Graham would ever let that happen. But players are not robots and human nature is what it is. Count on the ASU coaching staff to keep their team focused properly and then hopefully unleash the hounds when the time comes.