Hey, look at that, meaningful football! Yes, it has been a while since we've seen the Sun Devils play a good team, but with heightened competition comes my inevitable pessimism. And with that I welcome you to another week of the Cynical Sun Devil, where we take a look at Arizona State football through the lens of a cynic (me!). It's been two weeks too long since we've seen Sun Devil football, but it has been near a calendar year since we've seen an interesting Arizona State football game.
Just as any matchup against UCLA and USC tends to be, this game against the Bruins is the perfect candidate for my cynicism. Which route do I choose? Let's start with the obvious. Taylor Kelly is out with a fracture in his foot, yada yada yada. I don't have to tell you again. Behind only him quitting the team to further pursue drag racing, Kelly getting injured is the worst possible thing that could've happened to the Sun Devils this year. In last year's game at UCLA, Kelly's mobility and superb sense of knowing when to scramble proved invaluable to the win over the Bruins. So yeah, losing Kelly hurts the Sun Devils quite a bit. And for it to come the week before the rematch with UCLA? Brutal. Todd Graham probably broke the MRI machine over his head when he found out.
The second route of incessant pessimism that I'm going to explore is that of Arizona State's defense. Let's not forget that this defense was the key to the win last year in Pasadena, as a Carl Bradford pick-six and a pair of fourth-quarter stops helped make up for Kelly and the offense only scoring three points in the second half. But this year's Sun Devil defense hasn't shown enough in the first three games for me to give them the stamp of approval against a talent-laden offense in UCLA.
Now, the Sun Devils may end up catching a huge break. We don't know the status of UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, mostly because Jim Mora won't tell us. If Hundley's non-throwing arm injury keeps him out on Thursday, this game will go down as another legendary showdown in Arizona State's blackout games, as backups Bercovici and Jerry Neuheisel would duke it out. That would be the most entertaining situation for Thursday, but unfortunately for Sun Devil fans, Hundley likely will be under center for the Bruins. That leads me to my worst case scenario.
Worst Case Scenario
Rather than preparing for the different looks that either Hundley or Neuheisel will present, Todd Graham tunes into UCLA head coach Jim Mora's daily news conference. He is overjoyed when he hears Mora speak well of Graham. Mora's compliments puts Graham in an overly good mood, and as he often does in overly good moods, he decides to give his players the day off from practice. Graham's good mood continues to hurt the program's preparation as he spends the rest of the day preparing a few "conversation starters" for when he and Mora meet on the field before the game. Graham spends the rest of the night deciding between "Pretty good weather today, huh Jim? It must suuuuuck back in LA with all of that darned smog" and "So, you're only going to keep Miles Jack on defense, right?", opting to go with the latter.
Thursday night arrives. Hundley trots out to the UCLA huddle, much to the frustration of Graham, who hadn't updated his gameplan against Hundley since last season's game. Graham decides to re-use the gameplan from last year, hoping it would work again. Graham is very wrong, and Hundley throws for three touchdowns in a UCLA 45-14 win. Jack does indeed end up playing on both sides of the ball, and rushes for two scores to add to Graham's humiliation.
After the game Hundley says to reporters "They literally used the same play-calls they did last year. Every play was the same. I could've injured my throwing arm and still thrown three touchdowns on those chumps."