Record: 7-4, 4-4 Pac-10
Coach: Dennis Erickson, first year (120-44-1 overall)
Top Off. Player: RB Ken Simonton (1,329 yards, 17 TDs)
Top Def. Player: LB Jonathan Jackson (78 tackles, two fumble recoveries)
This game is a HUGE deal in Corvallis, where Erickson has led the Beavers to their first bowl game since 1965. Simonton, only a sophomore, is one of the best young rushers in the country, and QB Jonathan Smith had a big year as well. However, defense is not exactly a strong point for ASU.
||Stewart Mandel Mailbag: An ode to the West Coasters||
Record: 8-4, 5-2 WAC
Coach: June Jones, first year
Top Off. Player: WR Dwight Carter (77 catches, 1,253 yards)
Top Def. Player: LB Jeff Ulbrich (169 tackles, eight sacks)
The Rainbow Warriors were this season's biggest turnaround story, going from 0-12 to 8-4 under Jones. The ex-NFL coach's trademark Run 'n' Shoot offense worked to perfection under the reins of QB Dan Robinson, who threw for over 3,800 yards and 27 touchdowns. The season's successes were book-ended by two stinkers, an opening-week 62-7 loss to USC and a 22-14 to Pac-10 last-place team Washington State the final week.