Let's be honest: if someone told you back in August that Arizona State football would be 3-2 after their initial, merciless four-game stretch, you'd be pretty damn satisfied, right? So why is the Sun Devil contingent, including our own staff, so upset about the Notre Dame loss?
Well, for one, the team did not look prime time-worthy let alone Rose Bowl-worthy. And two, who knows when Arizona State could be ranked again with how improved the Pac-12 teams on their remaining schedule look to be?
So for this week's roundtable, our panel of writers will be reassessing the number of wins they expect the Sun Devils to finish with down their final seven-game conference run. Believe it or not, most surprisingly don't think the sky is falling:
Kerry Crowley: Even after the loss to Notre Dame, I'm still confident that this team has a lot left in the tank. That type of loss will take a toll on a team, but I believe that a big win against Colorado can get this team back on track. Of course, the Sun Devils have a slew of tough games left on the schedule and I don't think any of these matchups are cake walks. Arizona State's goals are still very attainable and as long as this team adopts that attitude, that will be reflected in the way the Sun Devils prepare and perform going forward.
I don't think it would surprise me if this team finished 4-3 over its remaining seven games, but I'll pick the Sun Devils to go 5-2. The Washington and UCLA games are obviously the most difficult remaining contests on the schedule. Toss in Utah and an improved Washington State squad on the road that the Cougars have marked as their marquee home game this season and all of a sudden, the Sun Devils could be in trouble. Finally, you can throw out the records for the Territorial Cup battle because everyone knows how those games play out.
If the Sun Devils finish 5-2, I would bet the losses come against Washington and UCLA in Pasadena. The Huskies went on the road and played Stanford so tough, so I don't think Steve Sarkisian's squad will be intimidated by Arizona State's home field advantage. The point is, the Sun Devils need to stay focused because this schedule is even tougher than it appeared at the beginning of the season.
Nick Krueger: I think ASU can go 5-2 the rest of the way but not in the sense most people think. The Sun Devils will steal one from UCLA or the University of Washington but lose a trap game down the stretch. I think Utah in Salt Lake City is a very dangerous game especially after the trouble they gave the Bruins last week. A loss to Washington is all but assured after they put up a fight against the Cardinal. UCLA showed vulnerability where Washington has not.
As Kerry said, 4-3 is certainly not out of the question. After the Notre Dame game, I won't put it past this team to lose to a Washington State or Oregon State trying to look toward UCLA.
Luckily for ASU, Todd Graham faced every team left on the schedule last year. He can't have any surprises or "alignment" issues the rest of the way. If there are, perhaps people are giving Graham too much credit. Theoretically, the only person who can out coach Graham the rest of the way is Steve Sarkisian. However, there will be one team that will have enough heart without the coaching to take down the Sun Devils putting them at 5-2. That means ASU would be 8-4. That record puts the Sun Devils on similar pace as last season meaning the Pac-12 South title could completely be out of the Sun Devils' hands.
Ryan Bafaloukos (AKA The only man on our staff who called the Notre Dame loss): Let me preface this by saying this is exactly where I thought Arizona State would be through five games. However, I did not expect the Pac-12 to be THIS good. The Pac-12 North has three elite teams and UCLA is showing they are even better then they were last season. I agree with the men above me that the Sun Devils face tough road games against Utah and Washington State. The Cougars particularly scare me because it is a national televised game, on the road, on Halloween night.
I think that 5-2 or 4-3 are the most likely outcomes for Arizona State the rest of the way. I actually think they have a good shot to beat Washington at home in two weeks because of how well the Sun Devils play at home and Washington will be coming off back-to-back games against Stanford and Oregon. UCLA as of now look like the team to beat in the South and it may not be close. Paul Perkins has established himself as the feature back and the young defense will only improve as the season goes on.
I also do not think people give the Arizona game enough attention. The road team has won the last four games and Arizona features a great running back in Ka'Deem Carey. It is going to be very interesting to see where the Sun Devils fall in the very competitive Pac-12.
Ben Haber: Of the final seven games, the Sun Devils will be favored in five. I love playing the odds, and I say they go 5-2 from here on, putting them at 8-4 on the year. In my opinion, it's more likely ASU goes 6-1 over the final stretch than 4-3.
There are some slight differences in my picks now compared to preseason. Heading into 2013, I had no idea University of Washington would be able to compete with practically any team in the nation. I confidently picked ASU over Washington, but I can't say the same anymore. Steve Sarkisian's team almost went to fifth ranked Stanford and won, which speaks volumes about their improvement. The Huskies' deadly combination of quarterback Keith Price, running back Bishop Sankey and an underrated defense leads me to believe they will come into Tempe and win.
The other expected loss comes at UCLA, and my opinion on them hasn't changed. Maybe the Bruins are overrated? Sure. But I still believe they are better than the Sun Devils. Brett Hundley is one of the few quarterbacks in the country that clearly prevails over Taylor Kelly.
In addition, Utah looks tougher than I thought, Washington State can put up points in bunches and Oregon State's Sean Mannion has been the most under the radar star in college football. There aren't many "gimmes" because the conference is loaded with talent.
Casey Rusnak: Call me crazy. Call me an optimist. Call me whatever you want, but I still think the Sun Devils can pull out 6-1 with a big win over UCLA. It's been a bit (three years to be exact) since Arizona State took on Washington. In 2010, Steven Threet lead the Sun Devils to a 24-14 win over a Jake Locker-lead Husky team. I think Arizona State wins this year's matchup although Washington looks to be their toughest remaining game. I do believe the Huskies are overrated though so playing the game in Tempe should be enough for ASU. I saw what Washington was able to accomplish against Stanford, but lets not forget they've been the Achilles heel of the Cardinal. Last year they ruined Stanford's national title hopes (along with a very questionable goal line stand by Notre Dame) with a freak victory in Seattle. So before we crown Washington as the fourth best Pac-12 team, lets see how they fare against ASU.