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Graham's goals proving to be unreasonably high

Comments from Graham and Sun Devil quarterback Mike Bercovici suggest the program is acutely out of touch

Head coach Todd Graham (right) walks off the field with Redshirt senior defensive back Solomon Means (7) after losing to USC on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. The Trojans defeated the Sun Devils 42-14.
Head coach Todd Graham (right) walks off the field with Redshirt senior defensive back Solomon Means (7) after losing to USC on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. The Trojans defeated the Sun Devils 42-14.

Entering the season, I blindly bought into ASU and predicted a third consecutive 10-win season. Maybe this was the year they'd take the next step. 

While ASU was replacing its three-year starting quarterback, the backup looked better in limited action. Like many others, I was fooled.

It all traces back to the offseason chatter. Quarterback Mike Bercovici, running back D.J. Foster and safety Jordan Simone wrote a ridiculous letter, Time for The Grind, which said that the national championship trophy signifies "The Grind" and then the letter invites fans to "join The Grind with us." On the first day of fall camp, Bercovici talked about what it's going to take to win 15 games.

I could go on, but the issue now is that this kind of talk continues even after ASU's been exposed as one of the most overrated teams in the country. 

After ASU lost by four touchdowns at home to USC, a game in which the Sun Devils self-destructed, coach Todd Graham had the nerve to say after the game Saturday that "this is the best team we've had overall."

Sure, ASU has increased its talent lately. Just look at recruiting rankings (though USC had the top-rated class last year). Still, the measure of a good team has always been how well they mesh together, playing greater than the sum of their parts.

Right now ASU doesn't play well as a team. Bercovici either has his timing off with receivers or he just can't throw an accurate pass. Nobody can seem to hang on to the football (ASU already has 13 fumbles). 

Yet, Bercovici is still talking about the Pac-12 championship game.

“December 5 is something that’s not out of the equation right now," Bercovici said at his Monday press conference. "We as a football team know that we can be playing in this Pac-12 championship and have the capability of being the best team in this division."

After the 42-14 beatdown at the hands of a divisional opponent, is there any way the Sun Devils are the best team in the Pac-12 South?

Instead of the Pac-12 championship, ASU should be more concerned with just making a bowl. Of course, if the Sun Devils lose on Saturday at No. 7 UCLA (ASU is a two touchdown underdog), you can officially write them off for the division.

ESPN's Football Power Index gives the Sun Devils a 0 percent chance of winning the conference, and projects them for 5.4 overall wins. 

In the USA Today Misery Index (a list you don't want to be on), Dan Wolken wrote, "Todd Graham is the rare coach who does not mind pumping up preseason expectations. ... Prior to this season, in fact, a number of national media types figured the Sun Devils were primed to make a run at the College Football Playoff — and Graham did nothing to dissuade them. But what happens when those expectations get thrown in the trash before the end of September?"

"Well, you end up with a stadium that empties out by the third quarter (the nearby Mill Avenue bar scene can cheer up anyone) and a fan base that is questioning today whether Graham had a grip on his team’s strengths and weaknesses coming into the season," he added.

Graham's goals are crystal clear. Pac-12 South champs. Pac-12 champs. 15-0 (national champs). But he's made his goals so lofty that they've become unattainable, setting up an inevitable letdown. 

Related Links:

Todd Graham: A coach in denial

ASU football hero Mike Bercovici hits harsh reality against USC

Reach the columnist at or follow @jjanssen11 on Twitter.

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