The Stage is Set for ASU Football's Takeover of Valley Sports

Christian Petersen

The Sun Devils are on the upswing, and the Valley is in dire need of a winner.

One team is headed for the lottery.

Another may be headed out of town.

One team is hoping a good quarterback is optional.

Another is hoping grit trumps talent.

All the while, under the shadow of A Mountain, a group of young men are preparing for a run at the Roses.

Anyone who has spent any amount of time living in the greater Phoenix area quickly learns two things about the makeup of the Valley sports fan.

First, they hate all teams from Los Angeles. Secondly, and most importantly, the Valley is overwhelmingly a fairweather fanbase.

Win, and your stands are full. Lose, and they're off to the next shiny distraction.

Remember the city during the Suns' run to the Finals in 1993? You couldn't go anywhere in the city without seeing signs and written-on car windows professing love for the purple and orange. That momentum held for a few years as the team was a perennial contender, but by the beginning of the next decade, wins were scarce and so were the fans. The cycle continued when a Steve Nash-led renaissance turned U.S. Airways Center into the epicenter of Valley sports. A few years in the lottery since, and USAC is now a ghost town.

The Diamondbacks' World Series title brought them goodwill, fame, and sellouts. Now in the middle of a stretch of mediocre (but gritty!) seasons, they are struggling to reach the 60-percent capacity mark.

Last season's five wins by the Cardinals are now looking pretty good, as the team continues to think a quality quarterback is not essential (sorry, Carson). The Super Bowl continues to seem more and more a part of the distant past.

The Coyotes? Well, that saga is already been hashed, rehashed and re-rehashed enough as it is. So they're out, sadly.

The Valley is looking for a winner. The Valley needs a winner. Arizona State is primed to be that winner. There's just one question.

Will the new "Speaking Victory" era continue to sing the same sad song Sun Devil fans have heard any time expectations have been high?

The 21-3 halftime lead on USC. UNLV. Oregon. Third and 29. Oregon again.

Ouch, ouch, and more ouch (plus a bunch). The bigger the moment, the more painful the inevitable collapse.

Right now, the opportunity for ASU football is huge. Reverse their recent trend and win a state in the process. Perhaps they can finally plant the "Phoenix is Sun Devil Country" flag.

Strangely enough, there are many reasons to think that this can happen.

Todd Graham's revitalization of Sun Devil football caught everyone off guard in 2012. The most undisciplined and self-destructive team in college football became a relentless and focused group overnight. They shocked everyone in winning eight games and taking home a bowl game title. They return 15 starters, most crucially consensus All-American Will Sutton to anchor one of the nation's best defenses. For the first time in a half-decade, the team will have the same quarterback behind center in consecutive seasons. Defense will try and stop Marion Grice and D.J. Foster...and they'll likely fail.

In a few months, ASU should see themselves open up in most preseason Top 25 polls. They have a tough, but manageable, schedule that should see them battle UCLA for the Pac-12 South division title. For the first time in a recent memory, talk of the Sun Devils' third a Rose Bowl appearance is warranted.

The state's sports landscape is barren at the moment. Losing seasons, bad trades, relocation drama, and some outright awful ownership have the Valley's fans looking for a glimmer of hope.

Are the Sun Devils the winners the Valley deserves, and the ones the Valley needs right now?

We'll find out come September whether the Sun Devils are heroes, or if they end up keeping the Valley in a dark night of losing.

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