In order to be the best, you have to beat the best. The NBA title continues to go through LeBron James' Miami Heat. To qualify as the MLB's premier hitter, post better statistics than Miguel Cabrera. Regarding the NFL, taking down the New England Patriots still signifies a monumental upset.
Since ASU hired Todd Graham, the goal has been clear: Make it to the Rose Bowl and strive to be the best. That mentality was often obscured under Dennis Erickson, but this current Sun Devil team has the talent and opportunity to regain national headlines.
The road to the promise land will not be smooth, because ASU's schedule is among the toughest in the country. After the week one encounter with Sacramento State, the group of death begins. Taylor Kelly and company face off with: Wisconsin, (At) Stanford, USC, and Notre Dame (Dallas Cowboy Stadium) in consecutive weeks.
Each matchup entails its own unique intricacies, but the latest twist comes via Notre Dame dismissing quarterback Everett Golson. Brian Kelly's club got dismantled by Alabama in the national championship, yet optimism existed because the future was clear. Golson provided stability to the most important position in sports, and the defense appeared prime for another great campaign. Not so fast.
Golson's departure out of South Bend significantly increases the Sun Devils chances to win the October 5th matchup. Despite the Fighting Irish having a surplus of talented recruits, Taylor Kelly will now be the best quarterback this game has to offer.
For now, the Notre Dame quarterback job is an open competition. However, many expect Tommy Rees to earn first team reps due to experience. Rees does know the ropes, but has failed to put up big time numbers against top schools.
During 2011 Rees started the entire season, accumulating 2,871 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and isn't capable of running the rock. Looking ahead, opposing coaches don't mind game planning for a traditional drop back passer, instead of the constant migraine a dual-threat signal caller brings. Flip the script back to Golson, and he falls under the migraine part. Golson is eerily similar to UCLA quarterback Brent Hundley, commonly labeled as one of the brightest youngsters in the game.
Will Sutton, Carl Bradford, Junior Onyeali and others have a much greater chance of succeeding against Rees over Golson. Rees can't escape any of the fearsome rushers, meanwhile Golson could. Pressuring the quarterback is key for the ASU defense, and doing so just got a whole lot easier against an immobile sitting duck.
After Golson's pedestrian start to his college career, the speed of play started to slow down, and the numbers started to rise and express his true potential. Golson tallied 11 total touchdowns and three interceptions in his last five contests.
Rees's best attribute is experience, and Golson already one-ups him in the category. Rees was apart of a rebuilding project, while Golson led an undefeated squad. Rees started the unknown Champs Sports bowl, and Golson stood under center in the national championship.
Take a look at it from any angle, Notre Dame is worse without Golson. Therefore, Sun Devil national should possess increased hope about a potential ground-breaking upset. But don't call it that just yet. If ASU survives the early part of its schedule, the Sun Devils could be using the Notre Dame game to generate that Rose Bowl buzz.
Author's Note: Notre Dame may start Andrew Hendrix or another unproven talent at quarterback, but the above still applies. I expect the game to be very close, and in close contests, the better quarterback gives his team an edge. Thanks TK!