Welcome to a new season of Arizona State football and another season of the Cynical Sun Devil. Last year Cody Ulm manned our wonderful ship of pessimism, but this year he decided that being negative was too damning on the soul (or he got a real job covering the Rockies for MLB.com, either works). Regardless, here I am, the already-soulless Shane Theodore, stepping in as House of Sparky's Dark Knight of Cynicism.
To preface my sadsack take on Thursday's season opener against Weber State, I think it's important to note that I am naturally a fairly jolly guy. I like to smile, laugh and frolic. If you watch all 24 hours of Pharrell's "Happy" music video, you'll see me somewhere in the thirteenth hour, dancing and skipping my merry way through the streets of Los Angeles. Okay maybe that's a little bit of an exaggeration, it was more along the lines of bounding through the streets of Los Angeles.
But since I started following Arizona State football in 2012, an alter ego of mine emerged from the ether, doomed to never have optimism towards Sun Devil football again. I reveled in the touchdowns and the victories, even the ones I still have no clue how we won (cough cough, Wisconsin).
Even with the victories and hope for a future in which Arizona State sheds its "sleeping giant" moniker, I remain pessimistic. As soon as Tyler Gaffney scampered down the left sideline for the first of many Stanford touchdowns in the Pac-12 Championship game, I knew the Sun Devils were in for a long night. I've tried to remain positive and maintain the faith, but that faith evaporated along with all of the moisture that passes through an August night in Sun Devil Stadium. And to be fair, it's not like Arizona State's finish to the 2013 season gives much reason for optimism. Getting dominated by Stanford in the biggest game the program has played in years, followed by an awful performance in the Holiday Bowl against a freshman quarterback doesn't exactly lend itself well to a cheery outlook for 2014, especially considering the brutal four game stretch Arizona State faces in the middle of the season.
Still, to honestly tell you that Arizona State should be concerned with the Wildcats would be akin to me telling you that Whitesnake is the greatest rock and roll band of all time. Maybe in a parallel universe that reality would exist, but here on Earth, we do not rank our music by the sheer hilarity of the band's name.
Weber State has undergone major changes in this past offseason, hiring Jay Hill away from Utah, where he was an assistant coach for 13 seasons. Along with Hill's coaching staff, Weber State managed to pluck eight FBS players from their previous program, including starting quarterback Billy Green. The Wildcats only scored 244 points in all of 2013, while Arizona State eclipsed that mark by Week 6. Weber State opened and ended their 2013 season with wins, but lost every other game they played, including an 0-7 mark on the road. Sacramento State, a team that the Sun Devils pummeled 55-0 to open up last season, beat Weber State 31-3 in the Wildcats' Homecoming game. Yeah, Weber State sucks.
But back to my crushing cynicism. Opening up the season against an FCS school can seem a cakewalk, but let's not forget the Eastern Washington team that beat Oregon State last year and the North Dakota State group that knocked off Kansas State. New coach Hill is a well renowned recruiter, and he hit the Utah jackpot by bringing in transfers from all three of the great state's big football schools (BYU, Utah and Utah State).
The Cynical Sun Devil's Worst Case Scenario
When arriving at Sun Devil Stadium for their walkthrough, the blistering heat puts Arizona State in a bad mood. They have a lackluster walkthrough and Todd Graham doesn't notice his team's sluggishness because he's too busy figuring out which bucket hat he's going to wear. After he picks the camo bucket hat, Weber State arrives in Tempe having not seen a palm tree in years. The Wildcats tour the campus and the town of Tempe and are overjoyed that they can finally wear those cool team tanktops they got two years ago that the Utah cold prevents them from sporting more regularly.
After a team visit to Raising Canes to further boost team morale, Weber State alum Damian Lillard shows up unannounced. Because he isn't doing anything with his time after getting cut from Team USA, he convinces coach Hill to let him suit up in purple and white one more time.
Lillard shines in his first and only appearance as a football player, catching two touchdowns and employing a cross-over to shimmy his way past a Sun Devil defender for another. The Pac-12 refeeres know that Lillard is playing under a fake name, but they decide to let it slide as retribution for the Wisconsin slip-up last year. Weber State takes a 24-14 lead at halftime, and the game is prematurely ended after Lillard dunks over the goalpost and tears it off its hinges. Graham slams his bucket hat down in disbelief and immediately leaves the field as only Todd Graham can, with his head hot enough to fry an egg on.