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Two spots out of national playoff, Graham says ASU’s focus is next game

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TEMPE – With Arizona State now two spots out of making the four-team College Football Playoff, head coach Todd Graham said he and the Sun Devils are focusing the task at hand: in this case Saturday’s road game against Oregon State.

“I always say that stuff always takes care of itself, and we can’t let up right before we accomplish something great,” Graham said after practice Wednesday.

After a nationally televised 55-31 victory over Notre Dame, ASU is ranked No. 6 for the playoff that will determine the national champion. At 8-1 (5-1 in the Pacific-12 Conference), the Sun Devils also are ranked No. 7 in The AP Top 25 Poll and No. 8 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.

With three regular season games left and a potential appearance in the Dec. 5 Pac-12 championship game, Graham said his team can’t afford to focus on its successes.

“It’s exciting; I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “But we just have to stay focused on the job at hand, and that’s to beat Oregon State and then go to the next one.”

Oregon State is 4-5 and has lost its last four games.

While the Sun Devils face the added challenges of traveling and a significant drop in temperature, offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said their performance won’t be affected because they maintain the same schedule.

“You’re in a hotel at home, you’re in a hotel on the road, everything is the same from our schedule,” Norvell said. “I think that contributes to our success of winning on the road is keeping our kids in the same routine.”

Starting quarterback Taylor Kelly is back to being a regular part of that routine after being out for three games with an injury to his right foot.

As for the colder temperatures, Kelly said there’s nothing the Sun Devils can do to physically prepare for it, but they are ready mentally.

“You just go out there and just block it out,” he said. “You just have to go out there with confidence and focus, you just really have to have that focus.”

Kelly said he and the other players appreciate the national attention, but their focus in practice is limited to this week’s game.

“Once we come inside these gates, guys are strictly football,” he said. “We’re just taking it one week at a time and as long as we keep executing, we’re going to achieve our team goal.”

Running back DJ Foster said confidence in fellow teammates has gotten the team this far toward the goals of a Rose Bowl appearance and a national championship.

“I just think it’s our camaraderie and just how close we are as a team,” Foster said. “Just to see the chemistry we have as a team, just to see the passion that we have for each other, the brotherhood out there is great.”

Foster said that the team is trying not to focus on its new position in the rankings but can’t avoid it.

“We’ve got a long way to go, we have a lot more games to win, but it’s just a great thing that every week we are getting closer and closer to our dream, we just have to continue to work hard,” he said.