ASU vs. Sacramento State: Haber's Hunches

Will Todd Graham dodge another bullet? - Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Should Sun Devil Nation be on upset watch? I've got multiple hunches.

Prior to Thursday's opening kickoff, I've predicted Jaelen Strong to haul in over 1,000 receiving yards, Marion Grice surpassing 20 touchdowns, Carl Bradford accumulating the top five most sacks in the nation and more. On Thursday, we'll begin to asses how accurate my hunches were.

As the Haber's Hunches series transitions from offseason mode to game week, there will be some tweaks. Instead of one grandiose claim, each article will contain multiple smaller hunches. The assessments may not always favor the Sun Devils, so be ready for optimistic and pessimistic outlooks.

ASU's first game against Sacramento State should go smoothly, meaning I can continue our happy go-lucky conversations.

First Hunch: ASU's main starters will be done playing by the end of the third quarter

The upset alert watch is on because of Sacramento State's recent success against Pac-12 schools. After week one of the college football season, the possibility seems very bleak due to the Hornets 24-0 loss to San Jose State. The Spartans are solid, yet nowhere near the class of ASU's 28th ranked team.

By halftime, San Jose State already led 17-0, and it's logical to assume Taylor Kelly and company should do better. The Hornets' defense actually played well, only allowing 24 points against David Fales, one of the better unknown quarterbacks in the country.

The difference between Fales and Kelly are the weapons surrounding them. The Big Sky Conference lacks threats like D.J. Foster, Marion Grice, Chris Coyle and more. Game planning for big time Pac-12 talent may give head coach Marshall Sperbeck nightmares.

On defense, the pressure of Will Sutton, Carl Bradford, Chris Young etc. will rattle quarterback Garrett Safron. Last week, Safron went 23-for-40 and tossed no touchdowns with two interceptions. Todd Graham did praise Safron, but that seemed like typical coach jargon.

The combination of the Sun Devils' advantages on offense and defense are overwhelming, and will be enough to let the starters sit at the end of the third quarter.

Second Hunch: Motivation won't be an issue

Looking past Sacramento State to Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame wouldn't be illogical, but I don't believe ASU is doing so. Everyone always gets hyped up for game one of the season, regardless of the opponent. Graham reinforced the point by talking about his team's desire to finally hit somebody else.

The week one bye was probably unfavorable in the long run, but it does decrease the likelihood of any upsets occurring.

The leadership stemming from Alden Darby, Sutton, Kelly and more will not allow players to overlook the Hornets. Since day one of the Graham era, the players say and do the right things.

It's eerily similar to the show Homeland, as the minds of these kids get crafted into believing certain values. However, out here in Tempe, the thoughts went from undisciplined and sporadic to controlled and well-mannered.

The one day at a time cliche sounds boring, but I truly believe ASU plans on embodying the approach all through the home stretch. The journey to win the Rose Bowl starts with defeating Sacramento, providing them with plenty of motivation.

Final Hunch: Carl Bradford's pursuit of history starts off well

Carl Bradford made it very clear, he plans on hunting down the school sack record of 24 set by Terrell Suggs. Almost nobody can visualize it happening. Coach Graham appreciated the high goals and went on to talk about how difficult racking up 25 sacks would be.

For the non-math people, Bradford would need to average two sacks per game to post 24, with 12-regular season games. If Bradford even comes close to the mark, postseason play seems very likely.

Two sacks per game won't happen against Stanford's NFL type of offensive line, Wisconsin's bruisers up front and so on. Therefore, Bradford must seize the rare opportunity against lesser opponents.

Four sacks in one game rarely occurs, but since everyone doubts Bradford, I can see him using that as motivation and getting off on the right foot. I predicted Bradford to end up in the top five in the country with 13.5 sacks, an increase of 2.5 from 2012.

Top five doesn't mean anything to Bradford as he attempts to become one of a kind.

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