North Dakota State upset Kansas State. Eastern Washington took down Oregon State. Does Arizona State really have to worry about Sacramento State?
Week one of college football featured plenty of mind-blowing upsets as FBS teams saw their worst nightmares come true at the hands of their FCS opponents.
In the past two seasons the Sacramento State Hornets found themselves in the headlines for taking down Pac-12 foes Oregon State and Colorado. This year the Hornets come to Tempe with winning on their mind, but also after suffering a 24-0 beat down against San Jose State on Thursday night.
So much is riding on a hot start to the season for Arizona State. With Sacramento State coming to town, we asked our writers to break down the Sun Devils' biggest concern heading into their first game week.
Kerry Crowley: In his post practice media addresses, Todd Graham has reiterated that the Sun Devils are not overlooking Sacramento State. He knows as well as anybody that the Hornets have defeated two Pac-12 teams in the past two years and he's doing everything in his power to ensure that Arizona State doesn't fall prey to the underdog.
Graham knows that teams that lose to FCS opponents beat themselves, so instead of game planning from the outside in, he's taking a methodical approach and worrying about what's in his control. I share Graham's sentiment and I believe the Sun Devils' biggest concerns are internal. The subject hasn't been brought to light often this offseason, but Arizona State's lack of offensive line depth is this team's biggest weakness. The Sun Devils have a sharp starting five, but if someone goes down, the Sun Devils could be in for a world of trouble. A team should always be concerned about health and I think Graham will put a premium on making sure his players are in the right positions to succeed this week. If the Sun Devils take a big lead, I hope the coaching staff rotates the offensive line freely because this team needs to figure out who can be the next man up.
Ben Haber: Believe it or not, ASU does have weaknesses heading into Thursday's season opener against Sacramento State. Todd Graham truly believes this team is the best he has ever coached. On paper, I can't disagree, but the Sun Devils do possess flaws.
The most glaring gap comes at the linebacker position. By now, the position battles should be pretty much settled. According to the recent depth chart, there are too many or's, which represent question marks. Anthony Jones and Steffon Martin are tentative starters at linebacker, but neither can separate themselves from the pack.
The other two issues could end up being resolved quickly: the right side of the offensive line and wide receiver. Graham has confidence in both spots, yet the lack of experience scares me. Tyler Sulka (right tackle) may end up being solid, but for now, I can't give him kudos based on performances in shorts. Same goes for Vi Teofilo. For the targets, I believe Jaelen Strong, Richard Smith, Kevin Ozier and more should be good enough, especially compared to 2012. Meanwhile, learning the intricacies of Mike Norvell's complex offense takes time, and we'll see if the young unit can get adjusted quickly enough.
Cody Ulm: My biggest concern is whether or not this team is going to be fully prepared for when Wisconsin rolls into town. I realize the players and coaches are conditioned to say they're taking it one game at a time but in their guts they know this is the tune up for the Badgers . The starters are probably going to play two and a half quarters at the most against Sacramento State.
Will that little amount of game action against a subpar opponent be enough to work out some of the kinks? No, Wisconsin isn't playing any powerhouses (quite the opposite actually: Umass and Tennessee Tech). At least they get two tuneup games though. I guess what I'm trying to say here is this is the reason I hate Week 1 byes. The extra practice is fun but there's nothing quite like the real thing in terms of fine-tuning.
Nick Marek: I don't want to sound over confident but ASU is a very good team and I anticipate no problem with Sacramento State. San Jose State beat the Hornets in week one so that gives this game a little less hype. Then again, Sacramento State got rid of its jitters already.
I'm not going to call anything a concern yet. I want to see how Zane Gonzalez does in his first game. There is a ton of pressure on the freshman this year. Also, I'm curious to see just how good this three back system is with Grice, Foster and Lewis.
Will the Sun Devils look better than they did at the bowl game? I guess that's my "concern." This offseason the team had so much positive publicity but can they live up to it and be consistent and efficient? We need to take a step forward in Tempe. Taylor Kelly needs to be great (average will not be tolerated), the running backs need to surpass 150 yards with ease and the front seven better have around a dozen tackles for loss and sacks combined this week. We're all counting on you, Graham.
Ryan Bafaloukos: First and foremost, Arizona State has to win the game against Sacramento State. We have seen Kansas State and Oregon State both lose to FCS teams and Sacramento State is no joke. A season opening loss to an FCS team would be crippling for ASU.
I am also interested in seeing how some of the new players in action for the first time under the lights. I think Taylor Kelly has to develop relationships with some of the new wide receivers like Jaelen Strong and Ellis Jefferson. On defense, I will be keeping my eye on the field safety position, as that seems to be the only glaring hole on the Arizona State defense.