Stanford junior wide receiver Ryan Whalen knows there's something different about this week but he's too focused on football and academics to notice the outside activities of homecoming week.
He's like most of his teammates. He's looking forward to playing Arizona State on Saturday night at 7:15 p.m. and, hopefully, to give the alumni an indication that the program is moving forward.
"We have to look forward," he said. "There's a lot of season left and the next five games are crucial for us. It starts with Arizona State."
Whalen has been Stanford's leading receiver all season (and is seventh in the Pac-10) with 32 catches for 554 yards and three touchdowns. He led the team last year with 41 receptions for 508 yards and one touchdown.
"Stats are not what we're looking for," Whalen said. "We're looking for wins."
Stanford (3-2, 4-3) needs to win at least twice to become bowl eligible but that could be asking a lot. All five teams remaining on the schedule own overall winning records and have bowl aspirations of their own.
Arizona State is the only one of the five that didn't receive any votes in any of the national polls.
The Sun Devils (2-1, 4-2) find themselves in a similar situation as Stanford in that they still need to win twice and are coming off a disappointing season that ended with a loss to Arizona that prevented them from becoming bowl eligible.
Arizona State hasn't treated the Cardinal kindly the past few years, bringing a three-game winning streak into Stanford Stadium. The Sun Devils have outscored Stanford by a 120-23 margin in that time.
The homecoming theme even extends to the Sun Devils.
Arizona State quarterback Danny Sullivan, who followed Stanford grad Trent Edwards to Los Gatos High, will have his own personal fan base in town for the contest.
"Yes, this game is going to have a good contingency of Los Gatos people there," Sullivan said. "I have gotten calls from all of my friends back home saying that they are going to go. I do not know the exact number of people going, but it is probably around 200 or something like that. I have kind of had this one circled on my schedule for awhile, because it is my only chance to show people what I have transformed myself into and what I can do for ASU."
It will also be a little personal for the Gerhart family too. Stanford senior running back Toby Gerhart's 'little' brother, Garth Gerhart (6-1, 300), is a sophomore offensive lineman for the Sun Devils.
"He's up for this game," Toby said. "He's had a toe injury but he's playing this well. I think my parents will just root for the offenses. I'm still debating whether I'll ask if I could go in and blitz one play and take his gap."
When Sun Devils' coach Dennis Erickson was the head man with the San Francisco 49ers, Stanford defensive coordinator Ron Lynn was on his staff.
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