Prepare yourselves Arizona sports fans, because this coming ASU football season will be the best and only shot you have at seeing a championship brought to the Valley of the Sun this year.
As the college football season arrives, the Sun Devils are in a prime position to contend for the Pac-12 title, while other Arizona sports teams languish in varying stages of rebuilding and fringe contention.
Head coach Todd Graham and his squad are coming into their own during a time where the other elite Pac-12 teams are in a period of transition.
Oregon lost its long-time head coach and offensive savant Chip Kelly to the NFL this offseason, while USC’s starting quarterback was drafted by Kelly’s new team, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Stanford remains the heavy favorite to win the Pac-12 and UCLA is a sexy underdog pick at this point but neither team is unbeatable, and UCLA faces many questions, including how its offense will fare without running back Jonathan Franklin.
ASU, however, isn’t experiencing a lot of roster turnover or a head coaching change.
Graham is heading into his second season as the team’s head coach, quarterback Taylor Kelly is entering his second season as full-time starter and the running back tandem of sophomore D.J. Foster and senior Marion Grice are arguably the best rushing duo in the conference.
And that isn’t even mentioning a superb defense that returns reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton and backfield disrupter Carl Bradford.
Talent-wise, the Sun Devils seem to have a good shot at taking a Pac-12 title this season.
The start of their season will be the most difficult stretch, though.
After their opener against Sacramento State, they play four straight games against ranked teams: Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame.
If ASU navigates through that stretch with a .500 record or better, it is in a great position to rattle off a series of wins to close out the season.
However, that is pretty much the extent of the good news when it comes to Arizona teams contending for a title.
The Diamondbacks are a very good team and have been in contention for a playoff spot this entire season, but now they are four games back of the second Wild Card spot in the National League.
Even if the Diamondbacks slip into the playoffs this year, they lack the elite starting pitching and offensive depth to outlast the top teams in a best of seven series.
The Phoenix Coyotes could very well have a playoff contender, but they have yet to reach the point where they are a serious championship team.
A string of three-consecutive playoff berths came to an end last season as the team finished four goals shy of the 8th seed in the Western Conference.
While the team has the talent to make it back to the playoffs in the upcoming season, they will not be one of the top teams in the conference, let alone all of the NHL.
Past the Diamonbacks and the Coyotes, the Arizona sports landscape gets significantly bleaker.
The Arizona Cardinals are mired in a stretch of sub-.500 seasons and infuriating quarterback play.
Their new QB is Carson Palmer, a veteran with turnover problems who is really only a placeholder for a year or two at best, until the team can draft a young passer.
Head coach Bruce Arians has brought hope to the team after having led the Indianapolis Colts on an inspiring run last year, when Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia.
But for all the success Arians had filling in as head coach for Pagano, he fell out of favor in Pittsburgh as offensive coordinator and his only other head coaching experience was a combined 21-45 record in six seasons as head coach of the Temple Owls in the 1980s.
The other football team in town, the UA Wildcats, are currently mired in a quarterback competition to see who will replace Matt Scott under center.
No matter who plays QB for the Wildcats, their offense will revolve around running back Ka’Deem Carey, who is one of the best running backs in the nation.
Regardless of its decent offensive talents, UA’s defense was atrocious last season and while it returns most of its starters, that might not exactly be a good thing for a unit that gave up more than 30 points a game last season.
Last and very much least come the Phoenix Suns, who are in no uncertain terms, rebuilding.
The Suns are no longer contending for a playoff spot and they are hoping for the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft and the chance to select uber-prospect Andrew Wiggins.
Taking a look at the Arizona sports landscape, only one major sports team stands out as a viable contender for a championship in 2013, and that’s the Sun Devil football team.
Its road will not be easy, and it is not the odds-on favorites to win anything, but the climate of the conference and the talent on the roster gives them a very real shot at taking a Pac-12 title in 2013.
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