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ASU Football: House of Sparky preseason roundtable

See what current and former House of Sparky contributors predict for the season in our roundtable discussion.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With the Arizona State football season only 13 days away, we thought we'd preview the season, roundtable-style.

We gathered a panel of current and former House of Sparky contributors, and asked them their thoughts on a variety of subjects. What do you think of our predictions?

Our panel:
Justin Emerson: House of Sparky Managing Editor (@J15Emerson)
Nick Krueger: House of Sparky Managing Editor (@NickPKrueger)
Kerry Crowley: House of Sparky Editor Emeritus (@KO_Crowley)
Cody Ulm: Associate Reporter for the Colorado Rockies and House of Sparky Editor Emeritus (@CodyUlm)
Brad Denny: 3TV Phoenix sportswriter , House of Sparky Editor Emeritus, Speak of the Devils co-host (@BDenny29)
Joe Healey: Speak of the Devils co-host (@JoeHealey42)
Jason Galvin: House of Sparky columnist (@Jason_Galvin)
Shane Theodore: House of Sparky staff writer (@shane_writes)

Over/under Taylor Kelly: 3,000 passing yards
Over: Emerson, Krueger, Crowley, Ulm, Denny, Healey, Galvin, Theodore
Under: None
Over/under DJ Foster: 2,000 all-purpose yards
Over: Emerson, Galvin
Under: Krueger, Crowley, Ulm, Denny, Healey, Theodore
Over/under Jaelen Strong: 7.5 touchdown catches
Over: Emerson, Krueger, Crowley, Ulm, Denny, Healey, Galvin
Under: Theodore
Over/under Zane Gonzalez: 4.5 missed field goals
Over: Emerson, Crowley, Ulm, Denny, Galvin
Under: Krueger, Healey, Theodore
Over/under Offensive plays per game: 75
Over: Krueger, Crowley, Ulm, Denny, Healey, Galvin, Theodore
Under: Emerson
Over/under Penalties per game: 4.5
Over: Krueger, Healey
Under: Emerson, Crowley, Ulm, Denny, Galvin, Theodore

Team leader in sacks
Emerson: Jaxon Hood, 7
Krueger: Marcus Hardison, 8
Crowley: Hardison, 5.5
Ulm: Antonio Longino, 7.5
Denny: Longino, 7.5
Healey: Salamo Fiso, 6.5
Galvin: Longino, 11
Theodore: Hardison, 5

Team leader in interceptions
Emerson: Lloyd Carrington, 5
Krueger: Damarious Randall 5
Crowley: Randall, 5
Ulm: Randall, 6
Denny: Randall, 5
Healey: Randall, 6
Galvin: Randall, 7
Theodore: Carrington, 3

Team leader in tackles
Emerson: Fiso, 90
Krueger: Fiso, 90
Crowley: Fiso, 92
Ulm: Fiso, 75
Denny: Fiso, 110
Healey: Randall, 107
Galvin: Fiso, 96
Theodore: Viliami Latu, 52

Which player leads the team in touchdowns besides Foster or Strong?
Emerson: De'Marieya Nelson
Krueger: Nelson
Crowley: Kelly
Ulm: Nelson
Denny: Kelly
Healey: Kalen Ballage
Galvin: Nelson
Theodore: Kelly

What will be the best ranking the Sun Devils achieve at any point this season?
Emerson: 14th
Krueger: 13th
Crowley: 13th
Ulm: 13th
Denny: 15th
Healey: 14th
Galvin: 9th
Theodore: 17th

Who is a dark horse candidate to have a breakout year?
Emerson: Lloyd Carrington. He hid underneath the shadow of the Sun Devils' secondary last season, when the charismatic and high-flying Alden Darby and Osahon Irabor stole the show. As one of only two returning starters, Carrington could grab some national attention this year with his ability to cover the Pac-12's best wide receivers.

Krueger: Jordan Simone. Few teams are going to want to throw on Damarious Randall's side. If Marcus Ball can't get his act together, I like the physicality I've seen out of Simone in practice. He's approaching the year with the right attitude and could surprise people with his skill set as a safety. But like I said, this is assuming Ball's undisclosed medical issue will continue to be a problem.

Crowley: Connor Humphreys. Arizona State will likely give seven to ten players meaningful opportunities on the defensive line this season, and Humphreys is an exciting addition who could mature rapidly with more reps at game speed.

Ulm: Marcus Hardison. Someone is going to have to step up to be a playmaker along the front seven and I think he's the man. He'll be inconsistent but when he flashes, I think it will be in a big-time way and that will be enough to make a name for himself.

Denny: Lloyd Carrington will carry on the team's recent run of success at cornerback and earn a spot on the All-Pac-12 second team.

Healey: To Sun Devil fans, Damarious Randall is a known commodity but across the conference, let alone the nation, he is far from a household name - for now.  Keep in mind the former JUCO transfer was banged up through the first four games of the season and didn't enter the starting lineup until his 17-tackle breakout against Notre Dame. This season, Randall goes from a solid player to a sensation, as he'll take home First-Team All-Pac-12 honors, be a Thorpe Award semifinalist and catch the attention of All-America voters and NFL scouts alike.

Galvin: Nick Kelly. Wait, the center? Yes, the center. Kelly gives the Sun Devils something they haven't had at center in years: a great athlete. While he can't break out with numbers, you'll notice a difference when Arizona State plays Stanford and Notre Dame this year, and that difference will be in the protection and holes up the middle.

Theodore: Lloyd Carrington. One of few defensive players with real game experience, will be relied on.

Bold prediction
Emerson: Arizona State beats Stanford Oct. 18 in Tempe.
Krueger: Arizona State beats USC by at least 10 points.
Crowley: Mo Latu will catch a touchdown pass this season.
Ulm: I don't know how bold this is but I think Arizona State is 4-3 by the time November rolls around.
Denny: Arizona State tops Oregon in total offense.
Healey: De'Marieya Nelson will have more sacks than touchdowns.
Galvin: Taylor Kelly will be a Heisman finalist.
Theodore: Arizona State loses to Arizona.

What will be the team's final record and ranking in the Pac-12 South?
Emerson: 8-4, second in Pac-12 South. Nine defensive starters is tough to replace, and the inexperience of the unit will hurt the team. The offense will be dynamic- possibly even a top-five offense in the country. I think the team beats Stanford, but drops its games to UCLA, Notre Dame and slips up twice in a rough conference road schedule.

Krueger: 9-3, second in Pac-12 South. UCLA wins the division, losses vs. UCLA, vs. Stanford, and upset at Oregon State. Stanford is still too smart of a team with David Shaw as their head coach, I still don't think ASU can figure them out. The Bruins have a chip on their shoulder from last season and the Sun Devils barely escaped Utah and had a rough time vs. OSU. I think Sean Mannion will surprise some people including the Sun Devils' defense

Crowley: 9-3. For all the criticism Todd Graham took for leaving Pittsburgh, he has restored a winning tradition at Arizona State while restoring his reputation as a coach. Graham was ridiculed as a coach who bails on his players and jumps at the next best move, but he has cultivated a culture of loyalty and respect within the Sun Devil program. That's especially pertinent this season because the 2014 team lacks the experience and defensive star power it had during Graham's first two seasons, but it makes up for it in work ethic and determination. Though this roster may not point to a nine-win season, I believe that this team will rise above the defensive uncertainty and put together a strong campaign.

Ulm: 8-4 before bowl game. Second in Pac-12 South. I don't see Arizona State beating UCLA or Stanford. Neither do I see UCLA losing more than two conference game if it comes down to the tie-breaker. I gave the Devils four losses because they're bound to slip up on the road twice. Arizona State has a roster to be competitive in most games and I'm certain Taylor Kelly will ensure that. But this Sun Devil squad isn't nearly as balanced as last year's and won't be able to rely as heavily on takeaways.

Denny: 8-4. ASU will start and finish strong thanks to one of the nation's elite offenses, but the young defense will not be enough to get them over a tough stretch against UCLA, USC, and Stanford. However, they will retain the Territorial Cup and finish second in the South.

Healey: 8-4, third in Pac-12 South. The inexperience of the defense coupled with the September/October gauntlet will make matching ASU's 10-win regular season and division crown from 2013 a very difficult task in 2014. As much as I hate to support the concept that Steve Sarkisian will create success at USC, a closer look at the Trojans' schedule shows they avoid both Oregon and Washington-with little non-conference resistance beside Notre Dame-creating a path for the still-depleted USC roster to excel this year. UCLA, on the other hand, is much more talented than the Trojans but has what some believe to be the most difficult schedule in the entire FBS.  Regardless, the Bruins should remain in the hunt for the division crown.

Galvin: 9-3, second in Pac-12 South. I actually think the Sun Devils will beat UCLA, but I wouldn't count on beating Stanford, and the team's inexperience on defense makes me believe there will be a loss or two on the road somewhere. UCLA, meanwhile, only plays two tough road games: Arizona State and Washington. I think that's the difference.

Theodore: I had to go with 8-4 and a third place finish in the Pac-12 South. I don't see them winning against UCLA or Stanford in Tempe, and playing USC and Washington on the road will be very tough tests. Add to the equation that Arizona State plays all four of those opponents in a row and I can't imagine them going better than 2-2 in that stretch. I say they lose three of those games and lose to either Notre Dame or Arizona to complete a brutal schedule. Arizona State is a better team than Arizona on paper but I think Arizona will win in Tuscon.

What is the most important game on the schedule and why?

Emerson: UCLA, hands down. Facing the talent that the Bruins possess, Arizona State has an uphill climb as it is to repeat as division champs, and losing to UCLA would make it nearly impossible. A win though might give them just the push it needs to once again play in the Pac-12 title game.

Krueger: UCLA. The first true test for the Sun Devils with both teams coming in 3-0. Rarely does one game decide whether or not a team is a contender or pretender for the rest of the season, but it could make or break Arizona State's chances.

Crowley: UCLA. If conference games matter the most to Todd Graham, then conference games against division foes at home take on even greater importance. The UCLA game will take place on a Thursday night following a bye week, which will allow the Sun Devils extra preparation against the Pac-12 South favorites. If Arizona State can protect Sun Devil Stadium, the race for the division crown will be even more exciting than last season.

Ulm: UCLA - This is a no-brainer. Clearly the season is going to come down to this. Arizona State won't have much of a chance at winning the South if they can't beat the Bruins at home and I could still see them finishing second even with a win over UCLA.

Denny: UCLA, without question. If ASU can make a serious bid to retain the division title, they will need protect their house and knock off UCLA at home. If so, that should put them at 4-0 with a ton of confidence heading to the USC-Stanford-UW stretch.

Healey: UCLA, Absolute no-brainer. This matchup has determined the participant in each of the first three Pac-12 Championship games and 2014 should be very similar, though it is being played uniquely early in the year.  No other game on the schedule compares; Stanford is still a team that schematically and due to its personnel outmatches ASU, while as incredible as it would be for the program to notch a home win over Notre Dame, the suffocating parity in the Pac-12 prevents an out of conference game from taking top billing. Sure, yes, of course, the Territorial Cup is massive year-in, year-out, but UCLA is bigger. If ASU can manage a win on Sept. 25, the season could become big-time memorable, because momentum will be into a different galaxy. However, a loss could be a major setback within the divisional race before the first full month of the season concludes.  Add in a Thursday night national television audience and the ingredients are all in place for some massive magnitude.

Galvin: At USC, Sept. 4. I really believe the Sun Devils will be 4-0 entering this game. They'll have an extra two days to prepare for the Trojans (the preceding UCLA game is a Thursday night extravaganza), and Todd Graham better take advantage of that. The Trojans will have settled in under new coach Steve Sarkisian by this point, and USC was pretty good once the worst head coach in college football left town last season. Meanwhile, this will be the first true road test for Graham's young, inexperience defense, and the Coliseum is no easy place to play, especially if the Trojans have found a groove and re-energized Los Angeles. If Arizona State leaves Los Angeles undefeated, Stanford will be in trouble, and suddenly the Sun Devils become a factor in the national playoff conversation. USC is the ultimate confidence builder for this team.

Theodore: It has to be UCLA. If they can win that game and get that brutal gauntlet of games out to a good start, the momentum will aid them in the next three. If they lose, their season's hopes could already be dashed.