San Diego — Mack Brown and Dennis Erickson have combined for 346 victories and three national championships. They've been friends for more than two decades and usually spend time together in the offseason on coaching junkets and at clinics.
Tonight, they'll coach against each other for the first time when Erickson's No. 12 Arizona State Sun Devils face Brown's 17th-ranked Texas Longhorns in the Holiday Bowl.
"It's fun to be able to do it in a setting like this, where it's a bowl game," said Erickson, who led Arizona State to a 10-2 record in his first season in Tempe.
Brown, sitting a few feet from Erickson at a news conference Wednesday, saw an opening a few minutes later. He leaned forward and said, "How about your game plan?"
"Well, I think with your speed, I was hoping rain, a soggy field," Erickson answered. "That's not there. We're going to throw it every down."
If there was any disappointment in getting passed over by the BCS, it quickly disappeared when the Sun Devils learned they were playing the Longhorns (9-3) for the first time.
Facing a storied program such as Texas is "really a shot in the arm for Arizona State," Erickson said. "We haven't got to that level yet, and that's what we're trying to get. It's not necessarily that you have to win the football game, but just to get on that stage and get the chance to compete. Our players have earned that. They've played with a great deal of resilience. I don't think we're the most talented team in the country, but we've found ways to win.
"Win or lose, it's huge for our football program and recruiting and things that are going to happen for us in the future," he said.
Erickson is 158-67-1 in 19 seasons at six schools, ranking him ninth in victories among active coaches. He won two national championships at Miami. He also coached for six seasons in the NFL.
"We went into the season without expectations," said Erickson, who bolted from his second stint at Idaho to take the Sun Devils job. "We weren't sure where we were going to be. I sure as heck didn't know where we're going to be. So for us to be 10-2 and have the regular season that we had is exciting for the fans, because they can see the light at the end of the tunnel."
Brown is sixth overall in career victories among active coaches, going 188-99-1 in 24 seasons at three schools. He guided the Longhorns to the national title two seasons ago.
The Sun Devils blew a shot at a BCS bowl by losing to Oregon and Southern Cal. They are coming off a 20-17 win over rival Arizona. Texas is coming off a 38-30 loss to Texas A&M.
"We feel like it's a blessing for us to have a chance to play a team like Arizona State in a bowl game," Brown said. "And we think that if we'll do our job, it can be one of the best bowl games in the country this year.
"Unlike Arizona State, we did not end our season like we wanted to. It was not up to our standards."