ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS
Last Year: Arizona State started the 2011-2012 season off bright and full of promise with two straight wins. The first win was complete domination over UC Davis, the second, a more impressive overtime victory, over then ranked #21 Missouri. ASU had earned a #22 ranking heading into week three but hit a snag when they found themselves outmatched, on the road, against a stubborn Illinois squad who took that game by a narrow 3 points. The Sun Devils bounced back in a big way at home, with a promising, dominating effort over a very good USC squad. That win sparked a 3 game win streak ending with the Devils only road victory of the year in Utah. Unfortunately that would be the last high point of the season for Arizona State as they went on to win only 1 of their last six, regular season games and then were destroyed in the Maaco bowl Las Vegas, by Boise State.
The problems for Arizona State, really started with an inevitable loss when they met the Juggernaut in Eugene, the Oregon Ducks. The Sun Devils played well in that game but in the end, they just couldn’t stop the running game, which was by the way the 2nd string run game for the Ducks. ASU would suffer a very similar fate (with the exception of Colorado) in the remainder of their games. The Sun Devils just never found a way to win on the road last year and couldn’t pull out the close ones. Despite being one of the best teams in the Pac12 at forcing turnovers, ASU in turn gave up too much offense. Even in their bowl game against the Broncos they forced 3 turnovers but just never capitalized.
So how does it look for ASU this coming Fall?
The Good: Arizona State is going to be brand new this year. They have a new coach and are going to rely on lots of new talent to take lead, in what some might speculate as a rebuilding year. The folks in Tempe aren’t thinking of this year as a rebuilding year though. Arizona State will be led by an accomplished coach who holds an impressive resume, Todd Graham. Coach Graham’s most impressive job on his resume is his career at Tulsa where he pushed the program to it’s first ever 10 win season the first year he was there and not just once but three out of four years.
Another positive for Arizona State, their running game is back. The Sun Devils had an impressive running game which they for some reason seemed to abandon towards the end of the season. They are returning the work horse himself, number 6, Cameron Marshall. Cameron ran for over 1,000 yards last year and tied his schools record for rushing touchdowns in a season. Finishing with 18 Touchdowns, Cameron was second highest in the Pac12 and ninth in the nation. Marshall is also creeping up in the rankings for career rushing yards at ASU, if he has another season like last year, he will end around 4th all time.
The Bad: The hard thing to figure out about Coach Graham’s first year at Arizona State, is which Todd Graham is going to be in Tempe? Even though he immediately affected Tulsa and put them at their highest point in history, he seemed to have a different journey when he made his way to Pitt, his most recent head coaching effort. Pitt struggled last year finishing under 500 at 6-7 and soon after was abandoned by Coach Graham. News came to the Pitt players through a text from Todd Graham stating that coaching at Arizona State had always been a dream for him and his family and he was going to pursue that dream. I understand this sounds like a good thing to ASU fans, as it seems he just never wanted to be at Pitt, but I would worry due to what his former player, Devin Street, had to say about it. “I feel like dirt and I was just abused for a year. Just to let ya’ll know he just told us he’s here to stay when Coach McGee left. Said him and his coaches have 5 year contracts”.
Although these things don’t speak to the immediate success of a program, this is the reason I included this as a bad thing for Arizona State. It’s as if ASU went shopping for clothing online. It looks great and the website says it will fit but when they arrive that’s not the case. Point and case; “What we sought in a football coach was someone who would be in it for the long term at Arizona State, who would build and guide a program that would be competitive in the Pac-12 and on a national level year after year after year, who would communicate and connect with the community, and represent our University with honor. In Todd Graham, we have that person” says ASU President Dr. Michael Crow. Well Dr. Crow, I’m not so sure you do have that person. His former player even said on twitter and I quote “I’m literally sick. That man pulled me in his office one on one and lied to me. He’s an actor he did it to Rice then us now he’s gonna do it to ASU… That energy is fake he has them fooled”. Now even though you can’t give complete credibility to a frustrated college athlete I feel he raises some good points, but alas time will tell for ASU. I’m just saying for a man who told his players at Pitt ”I don’t care if I get fired I’m a millionaire I can go to the caribbean and be fine”. It’s hard to tell which Todd Graham is at Arizona State.
However all that is just speculation. Now for a fact. Something that will effect the Sun Devils this year are the losses of Brock Osweiler and Aaron Pflugrad. A new quarterback is going to have to step up for ASU if they want to have any success this year and there hasn’t been a lot of buzz for that position yet. The Sun Devils aren’t bringing a lot of experience back this year and they will feel the effect of that with such an experienced conference they have to face.
In Closing: Look for ASU to be off to the same start as last year, most likely earning national rankings early on as their schedule is almost identical to last year just flipping home and away. The concern lies later in the Pac12 schedule as they turn from teams like Colorado and start to face the Oregon’s and USC’s. In short if they can turn some of those road games into victories, doing so on the ground with a dominant run game, they will have an exciting year and finish in the top half of the conference.
Next week We’re headed to the bay area as our Pac12 lineup takes us to Berkeley with the Golden Bears of Cal. Check out that preview and more Cougar news all here on All Coug’d Up.