Overview: 2008 is known as the year of disappointment in Tempe. After an extremely promising 2007 campaign where they finished 10-3 and won a share of the Pac-10 with USC, the Sun Devils found themselves overconfident and overmatched, going 5-7 and missing the postseason for the first time in years. 2009 brings a new quarterback in senior Danny Sullivan, and a highly touted recruiting class that could pay instant dividends on the playing field.
The Sun Devils are headed to Athens, Georgia to play the Bulldogs in a highly anticipated rematch of the drubbing of 2008. Going into a vaunted SEC stadium and pulling off the victory would give the Sun Devils a huge vote of confidence. In all likelihood, however, this team is a year away from legitimacy, after the recruiting class gets some experience in 2009
Key to Success: If the defense can live up to its massive potential, ASU will be a sleeper pick to finish in the top 3 of the Pac-10. If true freshman LB Vontaze Burfict is eligible for the 2009 season, he and fellow true freshman DT Corey Adams will join an experienced, tenacious D led by LBs Gerald Munns and Mike Nixon. Given the uncertainty on offense, a reliable defense would give ASU a fighting chance against any competitor. Stop the run in the Pac-10, and you can put up wins. There isn't a single QB in the Pac-10 that can break down a great defense on his own.
Potential Achilles Heel: In a fairly obvious move, House of Sparky picks the quarterback position. Danny Sullivan is currently the guy, but Samson Szakacsy and Brock Osweiler are both breathing down his neck on the depth chart. In terms of talent, Osweiler is king. But as a true freshman, it's a spotty idea to even consider him for the role. As for savvy, it might just be Szakacsy. He's a laid back dude who enjoys surfing while at home in California, but he has the resolve to lead this team in the desert. As for experience, Danny is the only one who has ever played college football. Hopefully, Sullivan assumes the role nicely and takes us to a nice 8-win season. But with this lack of control over the circumstances, the QB position will be worth watching for the Devils in 2009.
Best Case Scenario: Sullivan catches onto the starting role, and the defense destroys the pretenders in the Pac-10. ASU goes into Georgia and gives them a heck of a fight, earning the respect of SEC fans everywhere. ASU wins 9 games, culminating in a victory over Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl. Thomas Weber wins his second Lou Groza Award.
Worst Case Scenario: Sullivan breaks down against Georgia, and we're embarrassed once again by the Bulldogs. Pac-10 competition brings about the emergence of Szakascsy, but he cannot fulfill the fans' expectations. Vontaze Burfict is deemed ineligible for competition, and has to sit out 2009. ASU wins 4 games, and Dennis Erickson is fired
Likely Scenario: Sullivan is an average Pac-10 QB, and we win 6 games, making it into the postseason, but lose to BYU in the Las Vegas bowl. Osweiler gets some reps, and is named starter going into the 2010 season. The defense scores 10 defensive touchdowns, the main bright spot on the team.