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ASU Football: Todd Graham likes his team, so drop the witch hunt and deal with it

To many national media types, Todd Graham is worthy of scorn for just about everything, including believing in his team

This man believes in his team. Others don't. Such is life.
This man believes in his team. Others don't. Such is life.
Christian Petersen

Yeah, and his mom, too. So it continues.

Jon Wilner, the respected writer for the San Jose Mercury News, unleashed this series of vitriolic tweets after it was revealed that Arizona State's Todd Graham put his Sun Devils No. 20 in the latest Coaches Poll.

For that "crime", Graham has been taking a tremendous amount of heat in the national press, whether it's direct assaults like Wilner's barrage or more subtle digs like this from Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel and everything in between.

So here we are now, with the pitchfork (not the good ASU kind) and torch wielding mob now storming Graham's gates. Yet again. Really, at this point, Graham's relationship with the national media seems to be:

  1. Todd Graham says or does anything
  2. People crucify him for it
  3. Rinse and repeat

But before this devolves into a diatribe on the validity of the residual hate Graham gets for his Pitt departure, let's focus on the immediate point : Todd Graham ranked ASU No. 20 in the nation on his ballot.

First off, he's clearly in the minority on this. As Wilner factually points out, just one other coach gave ASU any love in the poll. OK. In many situations, going with the crowd is wise. Strength in numbers and all. If all those people are into it, it must be good, right? Other times, that groupthink can result in stagnation and stymie original thought and progress.

So like most anyone else who goes against the "in crowd", Graham is getting flack. But instead of being stuffed into a locker before math class, he's getting called out through the national media.

OK, fine. He's free to vote for whoever and whatever he wants. But that's not the important thing here.

Getting away from the whole "freedom of choice" aspect, does ASU have an argument for being the 20th best team in the country? To paraphrase Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park, was Graham more concerned with whether he could that he failed not stop and think if he should?

Personally, I would not put the Sun Devils at No. 20, nor anywhere in the Top 25. But I also am not greatly offended if they are there in those lower reaches.

The Sun Devils are a quality team, one of those pretty-good-but-not-great squads that make up most of the nation not currently in the top 10. They have some good weapons on offense, a very good defense and have had a year full of ups and downs. They're coming off a win over the 24th ranked team in the nation on the road to improve to 7-5.

If UCLA's Ka'i Fairbairn misses that kick a few weeks ago, is ASU in the top 20 right now? What about if Michael Eubank scores against Missouri? Or is Will Sutton doesn't bang his knee on the second play against Oregon?

Those are the types of questions that every fan of a team that din't win it all asks all offseason long. That's purely pointless speculation, but it does show how small the difference is between being firmly in the rankings and playing the the Fight Hunger Bowl.

Bottom line: No. 20 is too high, but by no means worthy of this level of scorn. Chill the f out, Wilner.

The problem is that polls are an entirely subjective exercise. You ask a group of people their opinion, you ask them to try to be as objective in doing so as they can.

So they do. And we tear them apart. It's a college football tradition.

However, the reaction to Graham is extreme, and but no means limited to a single ballot. This is in large part fueled by his exit from Pitt and the lingering angst from that episode. People hold grudges in every walk of life for reasons more and less valid than leaving the Panthers for the Sun Devils. For people outside of Tempe, this is a big deal and still matters, dammit!

But here in the heart of Sun Devil Nation, it's about Todd Graham believing in his team. He's said so from day one and again every day thereafter. He has now put the action of ranking them high behind those words. Most importantly, the team is showing plenty of reasons why he should.

The Sun Devils may not be the country's 20th-best team, but ASU fans have to love the fact that their coach will believe in and fight for them, even when the nation at large says he shouldn't.