Arizona State has somewhat surprised in the first two seasons under Herm Edwards, going from 7-6 in 2018 to 8-5 last year.
Even with a four-game losing streak, the Sun Devils still managed eight wins, one against Pac-12 champ Oregon and then a bowl victory against Florida State.
But even with a bright spot at quarterback, there are questions entering 2020, though the Sun Devils had an early preseason over/under of 7.5 wins and their +100 to 1 (5dimes) National Championship odds were in line with Utah, USC and Washington.
Offense Needs to Improve
After averaging a sub par 24.8 points per game last year, ASU has another new offensive coordinator in Zak Hill, who comes over from Boise State.
The best news is that quarterback Jayden Daniels showed a ton of promise as a freshman, averaging 8.7 yards per attempt for 17 touchdowns and two interceptions, while also running for 355 yards and three more touchdowns.
The question is who is going to step up at skill positions with studs Eno Benjamin and Brandon Aiyuk both gone. Running back will likely be a committee as A.J. Carter (19 carries) is the top returning player.
The receiving corps at least has a burner in Frank Darby (19.9 yards per reception, 8 TDs), though there’s not much experience around him.
After a down year for the line, ASU added a couple transfers that are expected to step in immediately and that could boost the rushing attack after averaging 3.5 ypc.
Defense in Good Shape
Similar to the last two years, defense will be ASU’s calling card after giving up just 23.1 points per in 2019. There are questions with a new coordinator, but Marvin Lewis has plenty of experience and Antonio Pierce was the LBs coach last year.
Even with new coordinators, it’s hard to deny the eight returning starters from a solid group. Linebackers Merlin Roberson and Darien Butler will again be forces, while Jermayne Lole (6.5 sacks) makes things happen off the end.
The secondary was the main issue last year, but with a top recruiting class and veterans like corner Jack Jones and safety Evan Fields still around, that unit could go to another level.
Easy Early Schedule
After a favorable start to the campaign, things get real for the Sun Devils with back-to-back games against BYU and USC. Win both of those and it could be a double-digit win season, but that’s asking for a lot.
If they can at least start 3-1, there’s a chance they get to 5-1 or 6-1 given the nice schedule. Outside of Oregon, the cross-division slate is also favorable with Cal, OSU and Wazzu in the mix.
Even if Arizona State loses its most difficult road games at USC and Oregon, there’s a reasonable chance to win every other contest.
That won’t be easy with four of the final six games on the road, but if Daniels is cruising in the second half of the season and the defense doesn’t take a step back, eight or nine wins is more than attainable.
2020 Arizona State Sun Devils Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. Northern Arizona
Sept. 12 at UNLV
Sept. 19 vs. BYU (early preseason line ASU -8.5)
Sept. 26 at USC
Oct. 3 vs. Oregon State
Oct. 10 vs. UCLA
Oct. 24 at Colorado
Oct. 31 at Washington State
Nov. 7 vs. California
Nov. 13 at Oregon
Nov. 21 vs. Utah
Nov. 28 at Arizona