The media picked ASU to finish 9th in the conference in 2010.

In frustrating fashion, ASU has improved on that prediction, but not by much. ASU could finish as high as 5th in the conference depending on how it does against Arizona on Thursday. It won’t finish worse than 8th, but could also ring in its third consecutive losing season—something Sun Devil faithful haven’t borne in their lifetimes.

My preseason prediction was pretty close—we’ll end the season with either 5 or 6 victories and fall just short of a bowl game. It’s another disappointing record for a team that was supposed to be on the cusp of competing annually for conference championships by firing Dirk Koetter.

Instead, the team has seen unprecedented losing streaks and the first back-to-back losing seasons since WWII. While the team clearly has upgraded its talent—particularly its speed—in the last few years and shared a conference championship in 2008, it’s also suffered from its share of near-misses.

In 2009, the Sun Devils lost 4 games by a combined 13 points without its Lou Groza Award-winning kicker. Thus far in 2010, ASU has lost 4 games by a combined 9 points with a suddenly-mediocre Lou Groza Award-winning kicker. Adding to frustration of fans, ASU had a chance to pull off upsets of Wisconsin, Oregon and Stanford but came up just short, often on weird or unusual plays.

In spite of the reassurances from the athletic department, Dennis Erickson is on the hot seat of fans. Many believe that he’ll need at least an 8-win season in the new PAC-12 next year to retain his job. Given the youth of the team (how many teams have you heard of that only start one senior?), the close-but-not-quite losses, and the resulting turmoil a coaching change can have, I’m willing to give him another year. But he has no excuses for next year.