Fan perceptions about ASU football’s latest falter vary depending on how high expectations were at the season’s start.
In the initial aftermath of the coaching search debacle in December, no one expected ASU to improve over its 6-7 record last season, considering the team lost many of its impact players from the previous year (ASU received less votes in the Pac-12 Media Day poll in July than California and Utah did).
The Sun Devils had a hot start to the season. ASU clobbered NAU and Illinois at home, and after a close road loss in Missouri, the Sun Devils responded with more impressive wins against Utah, California and Colorado. Fans were quick to buy into the team again and set more lofty expectations for a team under Todd Graham’s first season, like punching a ticket to the Pac-12 Championship game.
The stumbles began when No. 4 Oregon dismantled the Sun Devils at home. One week later, UCLA upends ASU with a game-winning field goal. This appears all too similar to the Sun Devils’ midseason collapse last year and in other previous seasons, and it seems ASU fans’ hopes fell faster than the ball from UCLA’s kick.
With regard to the team’s recent history, should fans be pessimistic about the rest of the season — or should the fan base be more forgiving, considering how the team was expected to perform before it played its first game?
The rest of ASU’s schedule isn’t easy, to say the least. With road trips to No. 11 Oregon State, No. 17 USC and No. 22 UA — with a home game in between against Washington State — the Sun Devils could easily lose out the rest of their season like last year and miss a bowl game. The only game the team is favored to win is against Washington State, but hardly anything is guaranteed in ASU football history.
The season isn’t completely doomed for ASU just yet. Redshirt junior defensive tackle Will Sutton is pushing to return against Oregon State, and many feel Sutton’s presence in ASU’s past two games could’ve changed both outcomes. Surprisingly, the Pac-12 South title is still open with ASU, USC and UCLA at two conference losses apiece with all three teams having difficult schedules.
No matter how the season ends for the Sun Devils, ASU has a promising outlook for years to come. Sutton, redshirt sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly, freshman running back D.J. Foster and junior running back Marion Grice — just to name a few — are all expected to return for at least another season.
Graham has already proven to be a bigger disciplinarian than previous coach Dennis Erickson was, and another season with the team combined with the No. 32 recruiting class in the nation according to Scouts.com should put the team in the right direction.
Another dark time for ASU football is looming, but this may be the last time Sun Devil football fans endure disappointment for a while.
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