ASU football isn't fazed by preseason media poll

The ASU football team was picked to finish last in the Pac-12 south division

With just about a month until the 2018-19 college football season kicks off, head coaches and select players gathered from the Pac-12 Conference to discuss the upcoming season in Los Angeles during Pac-12 media day on Wednesday afternoon.

Representing ASU at the assembly was head coach Herm Edwards, redshirt senior quarterback Manny Wilkins, and junior wideout N’Keal Harry.

Among a number of topics, the players and their head coach addressed off-season workouts, improvements for next season, Harry’s Arizona upbringing and NFL draft stock, as well as a preseason expectation that the team is hoping to exceed.

So what is that preseason expectation? 

Well, based on the Pac-12 preseason media poll, the Sun Devils are slotted to finish last in the Pac-12 south division. Ask Edwards and his players what they expect, and that outlook is just fuel to the fire.

“We don't go by polls. We've got our own aspirations,” Edwards said. “I told you at the press conference, we're trying to win a Pac-12 Championship. So whatever people write, they can write what they want. That's good. Hopefully no players are listening to that, because no coaches are listening to it.”

While ASU might have been picked sixth, this year’s Pac-12 south division might be difficult to break down. Compared to previous years, there is really no clear-cut favorite to run away with the division.

UCLA is entering its first season under Chip Kelly, who went 46-7 during his four-year tenure at Oregon in his previous collegiate coaching stint. 

Across town from Westwood, the USC Trojans were selected as the preseason favorite to win the crown in the south, despite losing quarterback Sam Darnold and running back Ronald Jones to the NFL.

Utah was selected to finish second, Arizona was picked to finish third and Colorado was slated to land just ahead of ASU in fifth. Together, the division appears to be wide open.

Compared to the likes of the north where Stanford and Washington have returning players that still appear to reign supreme, the south is undefined territory. 

“It is what it is. We were picked to finish last last year (ASU was actually selected to finish fifth) and we finished second in the Pac-12 South,” Wilkins said. “Like I said, there’s always going to be something negative that you guys (the media) find to talk about and you just have take it with a grain of salt and understand that it’s your guy’s job. I mean I’m not really worried about it ... At the end of the day, I’m going to go out there and put my best foot forward to win football games.”

Wilkins and Harry were both named to a variety of preseason watchlists. Make what you will of the preseason rankings and awards, but at the end of the day, it’s only the players who know what their respective teams are capable of. 

This off-season, Wilkins said that himself and Harry have constantly been at work 30-45 minutes after practice. The pitch and catch combo has worked on their exclusive one-on-one connection, and they have worked with redshirt sophomore defensive back Chase Lucas after practice so that Harry has the ability to work with a tough defender on him.

“This year, I just really feel like the work we put in the offseason is different,” Harry said. “I just felt something different this offseason. So I just really feel like we’re ready to show what we can do. We’re ready to show all the aspects of our team and all the talent that we have.”

The bottom line: Preseason polls and expectations are fun. It’s a first gander of what to expect for the upcoming season, and it gives media and fans alike a chance to voice their opinions and talk about football during a time of year when the average college football fan is craving their Saturday-football fix.

But to ASU, that bottom of the conference ranking is just a number. If everything was left up to a number or a ranking, well, then why play the game? Only the young men between the sidelines know what they can control, and perhaps flying under the radar isn’t exactly the worst thing in Edwards’ first year.

“We haven't played a game yet. It's hard, I get it,” Edwards said. “I was on this side of it (Edwards was a former analyst with NFL Live on ESPN). I can remember going in the studio saying, 'Coach, you've got to rank the divisions.' I said, 'What, I've got to rank every division?' 'Yeah, you've got to rank the divisions'. I go, 'Really? … I've got to rank all these divisions? Really? How do you do that? This is hard.' 

“So when your editor says you've got to rank the divisions … I get it. At the end of the year, if you're right, you'll feel good. If you're wrong, you don't have to worry about it. Somebody says, oh, you beat the polls. I don't worry about that stuff.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @AndrewBell7 on Twitter.

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