Arizona State Sun Devils
Head Coach: Todd Graham
2015 record: 6-7 overall, 4-5 Pac 12 South
2015 Postseason results: Lost to West Virginia 43-42 in the Cactus Bowl
2015 returning starters: 4 offense, 6 defense
Odds to win 2017 College Football Championship game: 500/1
Odds to win 2016 Pac 12 Championship Game: 21/1
Odds to Win 2016 Pac 12 South Division: +655
Regular season wins: under 6 1/2 -135 / over 6 1/2 +105
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The Arizona State Sun Devils entered last season as a potential contender in the PAC 12. It didn’t work out that way as they had a very disappointing 6-6 regular season. There weren’t a lot of quality wins but they did upset then #7 UCLA. In the second half of the season, the Sun Devils came out on the losing end of shootouts to Oregon 61-55 in triple overtime, 48-46 to California and 43-42 to West Virginia in the Cactus Bowl in nearby Phoenix to finish 6-7 on the season.
Only 10 starters are back for coach Todd Graham. The Sun Devils lose a lot of skill position players on offense and must improve drastically on defense.
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Last year, Arizona State averaged 477 yards per game including 299 passing yards and 35 points per game. Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell left to become the head coach at Memphis. The Sun Devils hired Chip Lindsey to be the new coordinator. He held the same position at Southern Miss and The Golden Eagles were ninth in total offense and 12th in scoring nationally last year. The problem is he only gets 4 starters back on offense at ASU.
The Sun Devils lose starting quarterback Mike Bercovici who is now with the San Diego Chargers. He threw for 3,860 yards with 30 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, and he also rushed for 6 touchdowns. Four quarterbacks entered fall camp competing for the job, including sophomore Manny Wilkins, redshirt freshmen Brady White and Bryce Perkins, plus true freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole. Perkins suffered a neck injury in fall practice and could be gone for the season, while Sterling-Cole is still too green to start. No decision has been made but it looks like Wilkins is ahead in the battle against White. None of the four have ever started a game in college, obviously.
ASU will lean heavily on the running game with a talented duo at tailback. Demario Richard had 209 carries for 1,098 yards and 7 touchdowns, along with 32 catches for 309 yards and 3 touchdowns. Kalen Ballage had 125 carries for 653 yards and 4 touchdowns, despite battling mononucleosis in the first month of the season. Arizona State loses versatile running back D.J. Foster who is now with the New England Patriots. He rushed for 280 yards with a touchdown, plus 59 catches for 584 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Receiver Devin Lucien is also with the Patriots this year. He had 66 catches for 1,074 yards and 8 touchdowns. Tim White is back and had 57 catches for 633 yards and 8 touchdowns. Cameron Smith returns from a knee injury that sidelined him for all of last year He had 41 catches and 6 touchdowns in 2014. Jalen Harvey moves into the starting line-up at the other receiver after making 4 catches last year. Tight end Kody Kohl had 32 catches for 368 and 4 touchdowns.
The offensive line loses four starters. The line struggled in pass protection last year allowing 39 sacks. Tackles Evan Goodman and Quinn Bailey, guards Sam Jones and Stephon McCray will flank center A.J. McCollum.
Arizona State allowed 464 yards and 34 points a game. The Sun Devils were #20 in rush defense nationally allowing 126 yards per game, but the pass defense was dead last out of 128 teams allowing 338 yards per game. Six starters are back for coordinator Keith Patterson. ASU was in the top five nationally in both tackles for loss and sacks. However, the gambling left their leaky secondary vulnerable to big plays.
End JoJo Wicjer had 7.5 tackles for loss last year including 4 sacks. Tackle Tashon Smallwood had 8.5 tackles for loss. Nose tackle Viliami Latu had 7.5 tackles for loss including 3.5 sacks. The Sun Devils will continue to put pressure on the quarterback.
Sam linebacker Salamo Fiso had 99 tackles, including 20 for loss and 4.5 sacks. Christian Sam had 96 tackles with 6.5 for loss. Koron Krump and Alani Latu will also start at linebacker.
The secondary which wasn’t very good last year, loses three starters to graduation. Cornerback Kareem Orr led the Pac 12 in interceptions with 6. Laiu Moeakiola moves from outside linebacker to safety. He had 44 tackles including 5 for loss.
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Kicker Zane Gonzalez made 26/34 field goals and all 52 extra points last year. Punter Matt Haack averaged 43.1 yards per punt last year. Tim White will return kicks and punts again. He averaged 27 yards per kick return and returned one for a touchdown.
Schedule and Outlook
Arizona State opens the season with home games against Northern Arizona and Texas Tech, before a road game at Texas-San Antonio. In conference, ASU hosts California, UCLA, Washington, and Utah. The Sun Devils travel to USC, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Arizona.
There are a lot of questions on both side of the ball. The schedule is tough but manageable. Still, this team will struggle to get to six wins and return to a bowl.
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