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So far, Arizona State head coach Todd Graham has delivered in his two years with the Sun Devils. He took over a program that had records of 5-7, 4-8, 6-6 and 6-7 in the four years leading up to his arrival. He took over in 2012 and led Arizona State to an 8-5 year and followed that up with a spectacular 2013 campaign going 10-4 and knocking off Wisconsin, Washington and UCLA along the way, all Top 20 teams. But it looks to us as though 2013 will be a tough at to follow for several reasons.
First off, we can't give Graham all the credit. After all, a coach never really puts his stamp on a team until he's been there 3 or 4 years. Until the players he went out and recruited start becoming a factor, within his system and schemes. By and large, he's been working with players the previous regime brought in. But we obviously can't ignore the results of the past two seasons and have to tip our hat to Graham. The team appears to have bought in.
That being said, we'd be very surprised if the Sun Devils come close to duplicating last years numbers. Arizona State returns just 10 starters from last year placing them dead last in the PAC-12 in that category. On the bright side, they return 7 starters on offense including QB Taylor Kelly who led an offense that was 32nd in passing yards and 11th in the Nation in points for. Kelly also has a couple of key targets at receive coming back. Missing however, will be leading rusher Marion Grice.
The big question mark coming into 2014 will be their defense. They lost just about everyone, returning just 3 to that unit. That in itself does not spell doom for the Sun Devils. There would be more concern with losing that many defensive starters if this was a top 20 defense that played a key role in the teams success a year ago. Fact is, this was a middle of the road, average defense, ranking 64th overall in points allowed. In other words, the shoes that this years starters have to fill, aren't all that big. It could really go either way. This defense could get a little better, or a little worse this year, but don't expect a drastic change. They'll likely be middle of the road once again.
5 Dimes Sportsbook lists Arizona State at 75 to 1 odds to win the 2014-2015 National Championship. Realistically, there's only a small handful of teams with a chance to do that, and Arizona State simply isn't one of them. They'll have an offense that will be able to score on anyone, but when's the last time a mediocre, middle of the road defense won a National Title? After last seasons 10 wins, we'll call of a bit of a correction in the win department this year. Somewhere around 8 sounds about right.
2014 ASU Football Schedule
Aug. 28 Weber State (Thursday)
Sept. 6 at New Mexico
Sept. 13 at Colorado
Sept. 20 Bye
Sept. 25 UCLA (Thursday)
Oct. 4 at USC
Oct. 11 Bye
Oct. 18 Stanford
Oct. 25 at Washington
Nov. 1 Utah (Homecoming)
Nov. 8 Notre Dame
Nov. 15 at Oregon State
Nov. 22 Washington State (Senior Day)
Nov. 28 at Arizona (Friday)
Dec. 5 Pac-12 Championship (Friday/FOX Sports)
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