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The RPO Column: Expectation (Week 7)

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It was not the best of times...

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

So, that was tough to watch.

For all the confidence many entered this week’s matchup between the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Colorado Buffaloes with, their world was rocked by the final score. It certainly wasn’t pretty.

All things considered: the Sun Devils are 5-2. They’re beat up, but still have a shot at winning the Pac-12, even if it’s not as great a chance as it seemed a week ago.

That said, let’s get to your takes, which by the way, were for the most part very rational and thoughtful and not seething with rage and anger. Mostly, at least.

This week’s dedication: Expectation

I don’t have much regarding this week’s dedication. I’ll say this: it’s interesting there’s such an ambitious drive to succeed around Arizona football from the high school to pro level.

The Arizona Cardinals are expected to compete for a Super Bowl this year. The Sun Devils are competing for a Pac-12 South title. The Arizona Wildcats are... in a rebuilding year, let’s say. There’s Arizona high schools taking on other nationally acclaimed high school football programs.

Expectation is a good thing. It marks one’s arrival, or at least being on the cusp of arriving. However, until a breakthrough is achieved, expectation is simply expectation. Here’s to expectation, and achieving the breakthrough on the other side.

Reminder:
Run (with what you’re saying) — Pass (on what you’re saying) — Option (out of it)


“I wanted to see Cole in the second half once we were down 20. Manny was too limited, it killed the run game. CO crashed every time we ran zone read because they knew Manny wasn't keeping. His throws seemed impacted by the injury too. He threw a lot of floaters allowing most throws to be contested. I applaud his toughness, but he shouldn't have been playing tonight.” (Michael Przybyla via Facebook ... and 90 percent of our comments)

Option

I get the case from both sides here. Wilkins, the coaching staff believed, gave the offense its best chance at competing. Obviously, you can determine still being in a game however you’d like, but it was only a three-possession contest until the fourth quarter. And with all the fumbles and missed kicks going ASU’s way, it felt as though it wasn’t over, even when the score was 33-13. So, I see where Graham & Co. was coming from.

That said, it would’ve at least been beneficial to see what Sterling-Cole could do, even if it put the Sun Devils out of the contest. Wilkins was obviously limited. Like you pointed out, his throwing mechanics suffered from it; he’s already a player who likes to throw off his back foot (which is his right foot, the healthy one). But when you take away his planter, the motion can’t be fully completed. It didn’t completely impact him throwing deep, but he struggled in the short-to-intermediate game because he couldn’t complete the motion with the same vigor (correct me if I’m wrong, this is just what I’m seeing).

Playing him is what the coaching staff felt gave the Sun Devils the best chance to win. You and I may not agree with it, but that’s why he played.


Option

  1. It’s OK, because, firstly, you’re admitting to irrationally being so, but that’s only a result of expectation. Secondly, that was just a rough game to lose, because it could very easily, I think, been a closer game than what the scoreboard indicated.
  2. Not sure if it was better... I thought it was a worse tackling performance than USC. At least the guys running with the ball there are former 4- and 5-star guys who were expected to be good. Not to say the guys from Colorado are bad, but there’s a talent gap.
  3. Yeah, until the Sun Devils are healthy... many woes.
  4. It’s OK, because there’s time to get ready for that. Less woes. Possibly.

“This year, you just gotta take the highs with the lows. Colorado has both talent and experience, and tonight that trumped our inexperience. It happens with a young team like this. Devils just have to move to next week and learn from tonight's game and continue to improve. This year reminds me a lot of Graham's first year: lots of raw potential, but lots of key areas (QB, OL, the secondary) just need more time to develop. I think the Devils are still on track, as ultimately this season is about making a bowl game and winning it. Next year, once there's an additional year of experience under everyone's belt - that's when things can get really good.” (Taylor Stevens via Facebook)

Run

Patience is indeed a virtue, Taylor.

This was a team projected by many to finish fifth or sixth in the Pac-12 South. Most media folk whose predictions I read had ASU winning between 6-8 games. As you said there’s key areas which still need to improve, and that will come with time.

Just look at Colorado: three years into the Mike MacIntyre era, and the Buffaloes are now contending to win the South. ASU will be too, and—in the midst of what’s supposed to be a down year—are.


Pass

Bruh.

The Sun Devils are 5-2. They’ve won close games. They’ve won games they weren’t supposed to win. They’re a win away from bowl eligibility. Their two losses have come against two good teams. They’re one of the top-35 teams in the country.

Yes, they deserve to go to a bowl game.


“We are fortunate not to have lost them all. We have a porous secondary and can't seem to tackle. We will likely lose all but one of the remaining games. Just better not lose to UofA” (Scott Vosburgh via Facebook)

Option

Football is a game of chance, so you’re not wrong when you say this team could end up losing the rest of its remaining games.

However, it’s unlikely. This is a team that you said has been fortunate to win. It’s a group that will find favor again this season.


“I get the "they are young excuse" and it's a valid one, but the lack of progress unacceptable and the offensive game plan is unacceptable. A good OC can be flexible. Don't tell me "our offensive plan revolves around the legs of the QB". That's weak.” (Eric Peterson via Facebook)

Run

As someone who was clamoring about how great of a play-caller Chip Lindsey was through the team’s first couple of games, I’ve found myself sharply coming down to earth in recent weeks.

That said, aside from running the football more, I’m not all too sure there’s much the ASU offense could’ve done against Colorado. There were several plays in which the Sun Devils incorporated a max-protection look, which means six or seven players are back blocking for the quarterback on pass plays. Colorado was still having success getting to Wilkins regardless. It would however, be nice to see more variation offensively.


“We will always be in the middle of the Pac 12 under Graham. ASU needs to spend the money and hire a real coach. Les Miles is available.” (Ryan Frazier via Facebook)

Pass

Todd Graham is a pretty damn good head coach.

I get it: years of being a middling program isn’t fun. It’s purgatory. The thing is, since Todd Graham has been your head coach, that’s been the lowest depth you reached. Since Graham has arrived, there’s now an expectation to be good and to compete for the Pac-12 title. You may not agree with what he said during the offseason a year ago when he said he felt he had a roster capable of competing for a National Championship, but you’d be hard-pressed trying to find a past ASU coach who could consider even thinking about such possibilities.

Graham isn’t a bad coach. That’s a poor narrative to lean on. His team wasn’t expected to be good, and it’s 5-2 right now. We’re not going to sit and make excuses about how poorly the team has played in its defeats, but we’re not going to fool ourselves by thinking Graham deserves to be tossed seven games into a campaign so many were calling a rebuilding year.


Run

It’s odd. I guess it’s a byproduct of being a young team, but this team definitely looks different on the road compared to home. I couldn’t tell you what that’s all about, but it’s true.


“Offensive line was terrible; receivers did not adjust when all the blitzing happened; Offensive play calling was terrible; Quarterback simply could not throw accurate passes; Defense could not tackle or cover well; our Kicker was great. At this point the Defense should be elite like Alabama after several years with this head coach, but they are not even close.” (Federico de los Santos via Facebook)

Option

Yes, the offensive line was bad. It had its worst performance of the season. Not sure what to say other than there needs to be significant improvement there. Colorado was very crafty as far as disguising and incorporating blitzes from different areas of the field, but to see the offensive line get completely dominated at the point of attack was odd.

The play-calling could have been more varied. The receivers had a rough night, too. It was the worst night they had creating separation from defenders since the loss against USC. The defense missed an astronomical amount of tackles, which isn’t necessarily new, but it sure is confusing to see halfway through the season. Zane Gonzalez is ridiculously good (three from 50 yards out!).

But c’mon, man. Elite like Alabama? That defense has four players who might get selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Arizona State presently has two players who might get drafted.


Run

It has to be fixed. The group hasn’t been especially bad either, it’s simply a matter of not improving as the game went on that confused me. Credit Colorado’s front seven. The Buffaloes brought it. There’s no excuse for the six (recorded) quarterback hits and five sacks.


Run

We are here for you, Danielle.