Countdown to 2014 – No. 4 – Arizona State

Note … This is the ninth in a series of previews for the 2014 season, ranking CU’s opponents from the easiest to most difficult.

Previously posted … No. 12 Massachusetts; No. 11 Hawai’i; No. 10 California; No. 9 Colorado State; No. 8 Utah; No. 7 Oregon StateNo. 6 Arizona; and No. 5 Washington.


Okay, quick show of hands.

Who had Arizona State hosting the Pac-12 title game last season?

Me, neither.

Coming off of an 8-5 season in Todd Graham’s first season with the Sun Devils, the prognosticators did not see much improvement for Arizona State in 2013. After all, the Sun Devils had to run the gauntlet of Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame in the first five games of the season.

Arizona State fell to Stanford and Notre Dame, dropping the Sun Devils to 3-2, making the predictions of a good but not great season seem realistic. Arizona State, though, found its rhythm on offense, righting the ship with a seven game winning streak. The Sun Devils were a scoring machine, running through the rest of the Pac-12 with four games with over 50 points on the scoreboard.

The rumors of Todd Graham leaving for other jobs seems to have cooled (at least for the moment), as Graham attempts to build a perennial contender in Tempe. As was the case last year, the Arizona State schedule contains a tough row of games (coming right after the CU game), and the Sun Devils must reconstruct a defense which loses nine starters from a year ago.

But exceeding expectations has become the new normal for Arizona State.

2013 Season

A 55-0 walk-through against Sacramento State (yea, the same team which beat Colorado) set up a non-conference showdown with No. 20 Wisconsin.  The Sun Devils hung on for a 32-30 win when poor clock management by the Badgers prevented Wisconsin from attempting a 30-yard field goal as time expired.

After a 42-28 loss to No. 5 Stanford on the road, Arizona State rebounded with an impressive 62-41 win over USC. The big win gave the Sun Devils a 3-1 record and a No. 22 ranking to take to Arlington for a matchup with Notre Dame. The Sun Devils fell behind the Irish, though, 24-13, before rallying to tie the game at 27-all. ASU couldn’t sustain the momentum, ultimately falling to Notre Dame, 37-34.

Arizona State took out its aggressions the following week on Colorado, maiming the Buffs, 54-13. The Sun Devils then got on a roll, scoring over 50 points against both Washington (53-24) and Washington State (55-21).

A perfect November included a road win over No. 14 UCLA, 38-33, and a rout of rival Arizona, 58-21. The seven-game winning streak gave the Sun Devils an 8-1 Pac-12 record, and a re-match against Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game.

Arizona State was never really in the title game, however, falling 38-14 to the Cardinal. The loss apparently carried with it a hangover, as the Sun Devils were a disinterested 37-23 losers to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl, finishing the 2013 season with a 10-4 overall record.


Much of the offensive unit which hung 54 points on Colorado last season returns.

Quarterback Taylor Kelly is back for his senior season, coming off a 3,635-yard, 28-touchdown campaign. Kelly also ran for 608 yards last season … more yards than any Colorado tailback.

Stars, but not a great deal of depth, return at the other skill positions. Marion Grice is gone at running back, but junior D.J. Foster is more than capable of taking over the starting role. At wide receiver, Jaelen Strong is back (75 receptions for 1,122 yards and seven touchdowns), but there is little proven depth on the remainder of the roster.

Even though six starters return on offense – including three along the offensive line – Arizona State is relying on junior college transfers to add a quick fix for the starters which were lost. Eric Lauderdale is a wide receiver transfer, while former Auburn guard Christian Westerman will be inserted as a starter along the offensive line.


If you want to beat the Sun Devils State this season, you will have to out-score them.

A 10-4 team with as much returning firepower on offense as Arizona State has would probably be given more national attention if it were not for the question marks in the defense.

Arizona State has two – count ’em, two – returning starters on defense. Amongst the nine starters no longer with the team were six players who earned first- or second-team All-Pac-12 honors last season. One of the two returning starters is free safety Damarious Randall, who will be in consideration for all-conference honors himself this fall, but the remainder of the defense has question marks.

The entire defensive line, including two-time Pac-12 defensive player-of-the-year Will Sutton, must be replaced. A mix of transfers and underclassmen will be called upon to carry the load. True freshman linebacker D.J. Calhoun enrolled early and looked good in spring practice, but no one is prepared to compare him to the departed Carl Bradford just yet.

The secondary? Last season, the Sun Devils had 21 interceptions (CU had ten last year, up from three in 2012), but all but four of those interceptions are no longer on the roster. Arizona State will be replacing both corners for the first time in the Todd Graham era.


For those harboring hopes of a Colorado upset of Arizona State, the schedule makers are the ones to thank.

Colorado will be playing Arizona State in the Buffs’ home opener on September 13th.

You read that correctly … September 13th.

In one of the earliest conference openers in school history, Colorado will kickoff its home schedule against Arizona State on ESPNU at 8:00 p.m. on September 13th. Both teams will have played two games previous, with the Buffs taking on CSU and Massachusetts, while the Sun Devils will be taking on – and beating up on – Weber State and New Mexico.

And therein lies Hope No. 1 for Buff fans – that Arizona State’s defense, with so many new players and so little in the way of opening challenges – might be ripe for an upset before a large and loud Colorado home crowd.

Hope No. 2 for Buff fans – that Arizona State might be looking past Colorado.

After facing CU, the next four games for the Sun Devils are as follows: UCLA … at USC … Stanford … at Washington. Tough road.

The UCLA and USC games will dictate whether Arizona State is going to repeat at Pac-12 South champions, while the game against Stanford (the team which inflicted two of ASU’s four losses last season) will be a “red-letter” game for the Sun Devils and their fans.

One can only hope that the Arizona State players will be looking past the Buffs.


It does not seem likely that the Colorado defense has matured to the point that it can consistently stop an offense which scored 54 points on them last fall (and could have scored more).

It does not seem likely that the Colorado offense has matured to the point that it can exploit the inexperienced Arizona State defense, at least to the point where it can outscore the ASU offense.

So Buff fans are left with the hope that the early season matchup will catch the Sun Devils not yet up to snuff, and looking past CU to other more pivotal games right after the game with the Buffs.

There is a downside to the hope that Arizona State will be looking past the Buffs, and forward to their game against UCLA, however.

The Arizona State/UCLA game will be a Thursday night game … 12 days after the Colorado game.

Even if the Sun Devil players are more interested in their grudge match against the Bruins, they will have an extra five days of preparation for that game.

Which means they will likely be well focused on the task at hand on September 13th.

This game will likely not be a victory for Colorado, but it could be a game which the Buffs show that they are going to be “more competitive” in the Pac-12.







2 Replies to “2014 Preview – No. 4 – Arizona State”

  1. Stuart,
    I honestly believe that USC is an easier game than ASU or Washington, maybe even OSU. We get a bye before heading down to L.A. not only that we should be at least 3-2 and if we are lucky 4-1. USC does have front end talent but still lacks depth due to sanctions. They also lost a bit to the draft. Steve has yet to coach a game with these young men, and to be frank he never impressed me. Meanwhile ASU pounded us and USC last year and Washington has more players back with a far better coach in Chris Peterson. Don’t be surprised if the buffs flirt with their first ever win over the Trojans.

  2. Stuart Stuart Stuart,

    I was not poor time management by the Badgers. It was the pac 12 refs who messed it up. The pac 12 latter admitted it and apologized to the Badgers.

    I am enjoying your little 12 game synopsis. So are you telling me there will not be a 13th game? Where is your kool aid? You need to spike it up. This whole series should have been a 13 game one. I am appalled at you letting your head manage your heart. Shocking.

    Mousing on your pad right now. I am sure as you roll through the analysis of each game and go back and review all of them, you will add the 13th game for this season. It is the right thing to do. I will be watching. So……………………………………………..

    Now Buffalo Up

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