TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson says the Sun Devils' visit to No. 21 Georgia would be important even if the Bulldogs weren't ranked.
"I don't believe it makes any difference," Erickson said on Monday at his weekly campus news conference. "It doesn't matter who we are or what their rank is."
Still, the ranking adds to the stakes for the Sun Devils (2-0), who have a miserable recent history against Top 25 opponents.
Since 2000, ASU is 3-26 against the Top 25, with the losses coming by an average of about 17 points.
That trend seemed to be turning when Erickson, in his first ASU season, defeated No. 18 California 31-20 on Oct. 27, 2007. But then the Sun Devils reverted to form, losing to No. 4 Oregon by 12, No. 11 USC by 20 and No. 17 Texas by 18.
Throw in two losses last year, to No. 3 Georgia and No. 8 USC by a combined 55-10, and Erickson is 1-5 against ranked opponents while at ASU.
Those are telling numbers for a program that aspires to be among the national elite. But Erickson doesn't see the relevance as the Sun Devils make their first visit to Sanford Stadium for Saturday's game against the Bulldogs (2-1).
"We're (asking) right now, 'Where are we at as a football team?' " he said. "That's my biggest concern. It will be interesting to find out exactly where we're at when we go down there and play."
The Bulldogs whipped ASU in Tempe last fall, and Erickson joked that he "probably should have burnt the tape.
"They pretty much dominated us," he said.
But this isn't the same Georgia team. The Bulldogs lost quarterback Matthew Stafford and tailback Knowshon Moreno to the NFL, and their defense has been vulnerable.
The Bulldogs opened with a 24-10 loss at No. 9 Oklahoma State, then pulled out a couple of grueling Southeastern Conference wins against South Carolina, 41-37, and at Arkansas, 52-41.
Arizona State, by contrast, has won two easy home games against Idaho State, 50-3, and Louisiana-Monroe, 38-14. The Sun Devils' defense played well in both games, but it's hard to tell how much improvement the team has made over last year.
"Every part of our football team, we're going to find out more about us when we play this week," Erickson said.
If ASU hopes to pull off the upset, it may need to maintain its dominance in the turnover department.
Through two games, the Sun Devils lead the nation in turnover margin, having forced eight turnovers and committed none. Georgia, by contrast, ranks 116th in turnover margin, with two turnovers forced and nine lost.
Arizona State is not sure whether it will have placekicker Thomas Weber, the 2007 Lou Groza Award winner. After kicking five field goals in the opener, Weber missed the Louisiana-Monroe game with a hip injury. He was expected to have an MRI on Monday, Erickson said.
"You want to have Thomas Weber when you go to Georgia," Erickson said. "I just don't know what that situation is."
If Weber can't play, freshman Bobby Wenzig would handle the placement duties. He made his only field goal attempt against Louisiana-Monroe.