Arizona State football is right around the corner, and expectations regarding the team's success vary greatly. In today's House Of Sparky Roundtable, we debate the topic: how many games will the Sun Devils will win this season?
Read our arguments and then let us know your prediction.
Ben Haber: The question marks surrounding the Devils are evident, obviously starting at the quarterback position. ASU has their work cut out, dealing with a new coaching staff, key members of the team departing, let alone the deficiencies on the current roster. However, as I mentioned in my Reasonable 2012 Expectations for ASU Football column, I am surprisingly optimistic about this season.
Five different quarterbacks in five consecutive season openers is not the greatest look for ASU. Yet this year's top candidates, Mike Bercovici and Michael Eubank, can both get the job done, solving the Devils quarterback jigsaw puzzle. Berco has a laser arm, while consistently making the accurate reads. Eubank is simply a beast at 6'5" 245 pounds, has a rocket arm and elusive speed. If people were as confident in those two as I am, there would be no debate. Both lack experience, but then again, Tom Brady was even inexperienced at some point.
ASU's front seven is the part that excites me most. Junior defensive tackle Will Sutton is ready to break out on a national scale. Down in the trenches, Sutton does not get his fair share of credit, but will be key in stopping opposing running backs. Linebacker Brandon Magee will be the anchor of this defense, controlling the middle of the field and instilling fear into fellow Pac-12 foes. The Devils will consistently have pressure in quarterback's faces, causing their turnover rate to increase. All this, plus Coach Graham's disciplined approach leads me to believe ASU will post seven wins during the 2012 season.
Brad Denny: Ben is not alone in thinking that the team will win seven games, as I've seen more than a few other people thinking that ASU will win seven, eight or even nine games. To which I say, "I'll have what they're having".
To me, this team right now is destined for five wins, and frankly, that can be considered a success in many ways. This season is about exorcising the demons of programs past, and laying down a foundation firmly in the "Speaking Victory" mantra. I have long said that success or failure of Year One in the Todd Graham era will not be measured in wins and losses. That's good, because the former may be scarce.
There are simply too many "Ifs" needed for this team to put together a season better than .500. "If" the new quarterback plays well, "if" the offensive line gels with three new starters, "if" two or three receivers emerge, "if" Cameron Marshall stays healthy, "if" they don't turn the ball over a lot, "if" the red zone offense is vastly improved, and so on.
And that's just the offense.
To me, such dependence on all those dominoes falling screams 5-7
Cory Williams: I don't buy into Brad's "this season is gravy as long as we play the game the right way" mentality. We took that approach going into 2010, expecting 2011 to bring big results. Look where that got us.
That's not to say Todd Graham is anything like Dennis Erickson. The leadership he has instilled in this ASU team has been nothing short of miraculous. I look forward to watching a disciplined, focused squad on the field this upcoming season.
I think we'll win five or six games at most, but it will have more to do with the quarterback position and a lack of big play wide receivers than anything else. The defense is going to have some serious growing pains, and the sheer amount of incoming JUCO transfers will shake up the team in fall camp. If things go perfectly, everyone assimilates and a quarterback and wide receiver can rise to the top of the pile, we might win seven or eight. As we've learned in the past few years, nothing ever goes according to plan.
Ben: I completely understand Brad's doubt, and agree there are tons of "ifs" in order for ASU to win seven games (my prediction). However, I believe the Devils' season would not be successful if they only won five games. Going under .500 is not acceptable.
The key issue ASU faces is the quarterback situation. Yet, the Devils have the perfect answer with a great running game. Opposing defenses will fear ASU's running attack lead by Cameron Marshall. In order to have a shot at stopping Marshall and company, teams must stack the box. Therefore, regardless of who is under center, the ASU quarterback will have plenty of good opportunities in the air. ASU has also made significant strides of improvement to the defensive unit. Their deep defensive line lead by upper-classmen Will Sutton, Corey Adams and newcomer Jaxon Hood can control the trenches. Pressure will be applied consistently, making the secondary's job a lot easier.
Most importantly, Coach Graham has made me a believer. His disciplined approach is exactly what ASU needed to get back on track. Maybe I am buying into the hype too easily? Players really love him and appear to be completely on board with his "ALL-IN" slogan. Graham will make sure other teams earn victories against ASU, rather than shooting themselves in the foot like last year.
Here are the seven games I think ASU will win...NAU, Illinois, at Colorado, UCLA, at Oregon State, Washington State and at University of Arizona.
Brad: Ben, I think you mentioned the key phrase: "buying into the hype", which has become a near annual Sun Devil tradition. Almost every year, the fanbase works themselves away from the end of a disappointing season to a familiar state of "we're a darkhorse conference contender" by mid-August.
That's where I think a lot of these seven or more-win predictions are coming from. I believe that the root of that hype is coming from the dramatic swing from the depths of darkness during the coaching search to the incredible gains and optimism brought by Graham.
Yes, he's done fantastic work in a short amount of time, and yes, ASU fans should be excited for the future. But the type of massive overhaul the program is doing takes time. Cultures take time to change. Coaches need to bring in "their" players. Foundations need to be laid.
The rapid nature of the turnaround is remarkable, but it doesn't do away with the reality of a roster stripped of most starters and infused with several key question marks, a culture in transition, nor make a very tough schedule any easier. Todd Graham has convinced me that the best days for ASU are yet to come, but I think that any wins this season beyond NAU, Illinois, Colorado, Washington State and Arizona would be an unexpected--but pleasant--surprise.
Cory: I am coming to grips with the cold mistress that is reality. Our Sun Devils are destined to be in the middle of the pack. An aberration (such as 2007) sticks out for many reasons -- no one in the national media ever expects us to do anything, only the ASU fans that support the team year after year.
This year, we're considered to be jerks. Todd Graham is a jerk. Blah blah blah. We'll win six games this season, but it won't be the six we're all projecting. We'll lose a game we should win and win a game we should lose. I am marking Utah as my upset special, and Washington State as our sleeper cell.
Let's go with NAU, Illinois, Colorado, Utah, Oregon State and Arizona.
Clearly, our opinions are all over the map. Fans, please help us settle the debate on how many games ASU will win by posting your predictions in the comment section below.