Are you ready for some Sun Devils football? (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Now that the softball team has won the national championship and the baseball team is out of the postseason, we've officially hit the summer doldrums, or as Bruins Nation puts it, the nuclear winter of college sports.
Since everyone here loves the football team at ASU, I think it's time we turned our attention back towards the Sun Devils football program and the lofty expectations of 2011.
According to the College Football Matrix, we're due to disappoint in 2011 -- they predict that ASU, at best, will go 7-5 in 2011 based on the recruiting trends of the past few years.
But are they taking into consideration the improvement of the players after they've stepped foot on Dennis Erickson's field? That remains to be seen, but is quite unlikely.
Forget about the College Football Matrix for now. Lets take a look at ASU's schedule in 2011 and draw our own conclusions.
9/1/11 vs. UC Davis
While we have a pretty tough schedule in 2011, our first game is very winnable, a home matchup against FCS school UC Davis. In 2010, the Aggies played against Cal, and were demolished 52-3 in the first week of the season. Sure, we lost 50-17 to the Golden Bears, so that might not be an excellent comparison, but we must fully expect ASU to take care of business on September 1 in the extreme heat. 48-7 Win.
9/9/11 vs. Missouri
Missouri was a very solid team in 2010, capping off a good season with a crushing loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Insight Bowl. QB Blaine Gabbert has left Mizzou for the NFL, and his brother Tyler transferred after James Franklin was anointed the starter for the 2011 season.
Their season, in many ways, mirrored Arizona State's 2007 campaign: after getting off to a 7-0 start, the Tigers lost two in a row before rallying to end the season 10-2. Not quite BCS-worthy, the Tigers played in a warm-weather bowl and lost. I think Mizzou is a really good team, but the Sun Devils have the heat and experience on their side. 34-23 Win.
9/17/11 @ Illinois
Here's the wild card game. Illinois is consistently competitive, though they've lost to Missouri every time
dating back to eternity they've played since 2002 (Mizzou is 6-0 in that time span). The Illini were 7-6 in 2010, including a bowl victory over Baylor. They defeated Penn State as their signature victory, but lost to all legitimate comers. QB Nathan Scheelhaase is a two-way threat, throwing for over 1800 yards and rushing for 868. Vontaze Burfict will have to key in on him to force him to become one-dimensional. This is going to be a nailbiter on the road but again, Devils might be able to take this one down. 27-24 Win.
9/24/11 vs. USC
Ah, Pac-12 play. We've waited so long to take the field against USC and actually beat them, something that has eluded the Sun Devils for what feels like forever. Last year's loss was particularly painful, with the Devils dropping a 34-33 decision in Los Angeles. With the Trojans unable to contend for the Pac-12 Championship Game or a BCS bowl, the timing is right for the Devils to finally win one against the ketchup and mustard. But don't expect it to be easy -- this team is extremely talented and Matt Barkley is a good quarterback. 34-30 Win.
10/1/11 vs. Oregon State
Oregon State has consistently been a thorn in ASU's side for years. Historically slow starters, the Beavers always turn it up a notch once October rolls around. They've lost Jazquizz Rodgers, an essential part of their offense, but returning QB James Katz has had a full year to wrap his head around the offense and should be able to keep it close. Another home game, another advantage Sun Devils. 42-28 Win.
10/8/11 @ Utah
Our first ever conference road game in Salt Lake City will be a thriller, as the Utah Utes bring a tough attitude and a wealth of talent into their first season as a member of a BCS conference. While the Utes could not compete against Boise State in the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl in December, they are difficult to beat on the road and Rice-Eccles Stadium is an imposing place for those uninitiated. Football is a big deal to Utah, and they show it proudly on game day. Last season, they had over 45,000 fans in the stands for two games (Pittsburgh, TCU) and if Arizona State is trending as well as we hope, the fans will pack the stadium once again on October 8. ASU might actually lose this one. 35-28 Loss.
So there you have it -- the Devils will go 5-1 over their first six games in 2011. What about the second half of the schedule? Check back on Saturday for the skinny on big matchups against Oregon, Arizona, and Cal (and more!).