Around this time last year, Arizona State was ranked just outside the Top 25 in the country. In light of USC's postseason ban, the Sun Devils were the heavy favorites to win the Pac-12 South. After falling apart down the stretch in 2011, expectations for the 2012 season are clearly not as daunting.
Despite the hope new coach Todd Graham has exhibited, there are still numerous holes in this ASU roster. The team must also contend with the challenges of learning a whole new system on both sides of the ball.
The biggest question mark is clearly at the quarterback position. Football is the essence of a team game, yet without a good quarterback, teams rarely put together winning seasons. Most never expected this problem during off-season camp, but due to Brock Osweiler's early departure, ASU fans must now face reality.
Doubters of the Devils keep coming back to the same, rehashed points of view. Lets sum them up after the jump.
- All three quarterbacks (Taylor Kelly, Michael Eubank, Mike Bercovici) have never started a college football game
- The offensive line lost two key players in right tackle Dan Knapp and center Garth Gerhart
- ASU lost their top three wide receivers from 2011 (Aaron Pflugrad, Gerell Robinson, Mike Willie), forcing coach Graham to give the green light to inexperienced, raw talent.
- The safety position appears shaky, lacking both experience and a consistently performing player.
Because of these issues, ASU is now predicted to finish closer to the bottom of the Pac-12 South by the media and fans. In my opinion, flying under the radar will be a blessing for the Devils.
Talent is not the problem for ASU; it is simply experience. Someone can spend all day pointing out the shortcomings of every wide receiver, quarterback and defensive back the Devils have, while I can make a legitimate argument that all three positions will work out fine.
Coach Graham and his staff are addressing the main problem by focusing on the fundamentals. Players must be disciplined if they want to step out on the gridiron. This approach is extremely valuable for a team that often beat themselves, leading the nation in penalties two out of the last three seasons. Thanks, Vontaze!
This past December, the coaching search took much longer than expected and had bumps in the road, but more importantly, the right coach was hired. Coach Graham and his approach will put ASU football in a position to "overachieve." He will get every player to perform with a sense of urgency, as opposed to last year, when the Devils were lethargic after starting 6-2.
I predict ASU wins seven games during the 2012 season, earning a bowl berth. My low number for this squad would be four, while topping out at eight. Through discipline and leadership, coach Graham will give the Devils a fighter's chance weekly. I would be stunned if ASU was not fundamentally sound this year.
ASU is on national television (ESPN) four times this season, giving them ample opportunity to prove the "haters" wrong.