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The RPO Column: Uncertainty (Week 13)

Plenty of unknowns surround the Sun Devils following the regular season.

Arizona State v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The wait continues.

The Arizona State Sun Devils had six chances to win one game and earn bowl eligibility. After failing to do so, they’ve left their postseason fate in the hands of the governing, with a bowl bid very unlikely.

Its’ just the tip of iceberg.

There’s a rising amount of uncertainty surrounding the program following a 5-7 campaign, which is what we’re dedicating this week’s post to.

Uncertainty has surrounded the team since the offseason. Eight new faces were added to Todd Graham’s coaching staff; defensive play-calling duties were changed; a quarterback battle progressed into the early stages of the regular season.

Then things appeared to stabilize. The Sun Devils settled on Manny Wilkins under center, the offense was firing on all cylinders, and the defense’s woes in pass defense appeared maskable.

Cue the injuries. Pile on the non-existent chemistry on the defensive end, and the lack of answers from Graham which led to chatter of his potential removal. Then it habitually became about turning things around next week, moving on from the previous game’s result.

Even fully healthy, ASU’s schedule didn’t offer too many expected wins, but the one victory many felt was certain was a win against a 2-9 Arizona Wildcats team. That assurance floundered just three plays in, and never really returned. In fact, Friday night’s contest very much characterizing of the Sun Devils’ year, as ASU chased with the belief it had a chance of getting things under control.

The Sun Devils never managed to corral the situation, and just as the score inflated, ASU’s season unraveled before it, leaving the program in a space of uncertainty.

There’s obvious questions: What’s next? With who leading the way?

While it’s true 2017 offers better prospects, the uncertainty from the top on down is what’s unsettling moving forward, and has been so all along.

Let’s get to your thoughts, comments and concerns for this week.

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


I understand I’m in the minority here, and there’s no excusing the manner by which ASU lost to Arizona. But, I agree. Give Graham a third strike. If 2017 is a bust, pay the bill and move on, but I think he’s earned a shot at another chance to fix things.

I've been witness to many losses to the enemy. I was there during "The Streak" they all hurt equally. What makes this loss standout is....we were never embarrassed. This loss exposed the state of our program. I've always been on board with Coach Graham. The man is a hell of a guy but this one ranks up there with Michigan-App State in terms of a national embarrassment. Change must happen. And I'm not talking about a change at defensive coordinator. No, a change at the top must happen. Yes, Ray Anderson vouched for Coach a couple of weeks ago but I'm more than positive he nor anyone including uofa expected this outcome. A change must happen. We are in dire straits as a major college football program. (Michael Pacheco via Facebook)


The loss was pathetic, and I agree it revealed plenty regarding where the program stands.

That said, I think before Graham is displaced, ASU will address those below him, and allow him a chance to fix things.


Working back to Michael’s point, this is where I stand. Graham is undoubtedly on the hot seat, and it’s time to put up. Excuses won’t cover him next year.

I've long thought we plateaud with CTG in Taylor's last season. The loss to Notre Dame in Dallas was that moment where it could've turned big and didn't.

Personally, i would go hire norvell away from Memphis. The kids loved him, the offense was better with him and Memphis looks good. (Jason Galvin via Facebook)


ASU fans were relentless with Norvell in 2015. I’m personally happy to see him perform well, but don’t think he’s coming back any time soon.

In regards to plateauing: Strangely, I don’t think ASU has. The future may not immediately produce a National Championship, but the Sun Devils were not too long ago at the door step of a Rose Bowl. Could happen again.


Wilkins isn’t a great quarterback, but I think he showed a little bit of improvement against Arizona, as a passer, believe it or not. He wasn’t trigger happy, he didn’t take dumb sacks, and he mostly kept his eyes downfield when freelancing. The play-calls were conservative early on, asking him to target short-to-intermediate routes, leading to an efficient stat line.

Are there things to be upset with? Absolutely. His accuracy and mechanics could stand for improvement, and the silly turnovers could be rendered too, but he certainly wasn’t the cause of ASU’s loss.

Your start vet running back gets 7 carries??? You can win like that. Every game they won your backs have 15 plus carries. Gotta keep the defense honest. That basic football..... (T-raw Hayes via Facebook)


Absolutely weird. Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard were being utilized more as receivers during the game, and I was surprised ASU didn’t work its two star running backs as rushers more. Out of the 98 plays the Sun Devils ran, Ballage and Richard combined for 14 carries for 47 yards, compared to 16 catches for 123 yards.

I understand they were playing catch-up for most of the evening, but it was disappointing for the duo to not receive more carries.

I felt like the fans wanted a win more than the players.. they showed no fire or was embarrassing and sad. (Sheri Conness Watts via Facebook)


Wilkins said after the game players needed to play for each other, stay focused and remember the game is about being selfless, that it’s bigger than individuals.

There’s been no locker room tension to report of that I know of, but it was odd to not see the same sort of fight out of ASU it had demonstrated in previous games.

Not good, but win or lose I ❤️ my Sun Devils and I will always support them... even with this win the wildrats still have a horrible record... there's always next year. (Al N Monica Joseph via Facebook)


There’s your positive outlook, folks.