Opinion: Mark your calendars for Dec. 6, the Sun Devils have a date with destiny

Youth will allow ASU to reign over the Pac-12 South in 2019

This year's Sun Devil football team will bring home its second ever Pac-12 South title because of one key reason: its youth. 

During head coach Herm Edwards' era, ASU football has found the fountain of youth, bringing freshman and newcomers to the forefront of its success. The 2018 season was one of transition, one that saw bigger leaps than many expected due their wins against better teams

A season ago, the Sun Devils had a senior quarterback and a top-tier wide receiver that just so happened to be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft

2019 is different, this squad has more balance and more talent. One may argue that they are too young and inexperienced, but this group will prove otherwise.

In the transition season of 2018, then-freshman linebacker Merlin Robertson led the defense in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks. Robertson was then rightfully named Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year

Before 2019, ASU has never named a sophomore captain — let alone a freshman. This year's team will feature one freshman and one sophomore, and both have shown themselves as leaders on the field. 

Freshman quarterback and special teams captain Ethan Long rose up the ranks when he stepped on campus amid a quarterback battle in the spring. Long appears to be a key contributor with the Sparky package on offense. 

Robertson and sophomore linebacker and defensive captain Darien Butler have made the linebacking corps and defensive secondary the most consistent group of the Sun Devil season thus far. 

On the other side of the football, the Sun Devils are led by a calm, cool and collected freshmen quarterback — Jayden Daniels. 

The five-star recruit led the nation in passer rating when facing pressure in week one. Daniels was the best quarterback when facing a pass rush in the country in his first start at the collegiate level. He was performing with the composure of an upperclassman while in his first-year of college. 

“He’s going to get better every week, but what I like about the guy – he’s got composure,” Edwards said following the week one victory. “He never panicked. He came over with a smile on his face and just kept playing.”

In a normal season, the younger players have to look to veteran teammates for that kind of example. Instead, this team is led by its younger players. Youth cannot be the only reason for a championship, though.

The perfect storm of talented youth and a favorable conference schedule will fertilize the garden that is a Pac-12 South championship. The Sun Devils were able to dodge Washington and Stanford in 2019, two of its four conference losses last season. 

The biggest home test of the year for the team will be Oregon at Sun Devil Stadium. This is no cause for concern as ASU has not lost a Saturday conference home game on their Bermuda grass since Oct. 2017. Frankly, the 2019 ASU team has twice the talent as the 2017 squad.

The biggest, and only, conference road test will come when ASU travels to Salt Lake City to play Utah. The Utes are the defending south division champions and are the only viable threat to ASU in the race for the south. This midseason matchup could decide who will represent the division in Santa Clara on Dec. 6. 

Utah will have a tougher schedule than ASU in conference play. They have to travel to the Coliseum at USC, a place that has one of the most intense atmospheres in sports. They also travel to Washington, a team that might represent the Pac-12 North. 

A 3-1 road conference record combined with talented and composed youth sets these Sun Devils up beautifully in 2019. This will allow ASU to have a clear path to a Pac-12 South championship.

So clear your calendars on Dec. 6, the Devils have a date with destiny that you won’t want to miss. 


Reach the columnist at ancoil@asu.edu or follow @anc2018 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the  author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its  editors.

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