Posted on June 29, 2021
This Arizona State outlook is the fourth of 12 preseason previews to seem over as many weeks as we depend down the times to the beginning of the Pac-12 season on August twenty eighth.
Each preview is comprised of 9 sections: Overview, Best-Case Scenario, Worst-Case Scenario, What Should Happen, What Must Happen, Greatest Strength, Biggest Concern, Deciding Factors, and Schedule Analysis.
Nothing is about in stone as rosters and depth charts proceed to evolve over the summer season. In the top, preseason prognostications usually show to be no higher than good guesses at greatest.
Off the sphere allegations have stolen a few of the highlight from what could be the very best roster Arizona State has had since its 2013 Pac-12 South Championship workforce.
And on paper, the 2021 model of the Sun Devils may very well be even higher.
But the NCAA investigation into alleged recruiting violations has the potential to derail a season that in any other case could convey this system to the sting of the College Football Playoff.
If true, these allegations may end in substantial penalties from the customarily arbitrary enforcement Committee, and—in accordance with some analysts—may even price Herm Edwards his job.
Navigating via that distraction turns into impediment Number One for Edwards and his workers.
If they can do it efficiently, the Sun Devils arguably have the expertise to not solely win the South, but additionally to assert a Pac-12 title and problem for an invite to the 2022 College Football Playoff.
The administration in Tempe permits the NCAA investigation to run its coarse with out taking any preemptive actions, offering the teaching workers with the assist it must concentrate on the season.
Although enjoying in solely 4 video games final 12 months, the Sun Devil offense led the Pac-12 in factors per recreation and its protection topped the charts in factors allowed per contest.
And returning 15 starters, the expectations are even increased.
It all begins within the backfield. Chip Trayanum, Rachaad White, and Daniyel Ngata mixed for 11 touchdowns because the ASU dashing assault led the Conference in yards per recreation through the 2020 season.
Each returns with one other 12 months of expertise underneath his belt, setting the stage for an additional robust season.
The run recreation’s power is arguably derived from Jayden Daniels. Entering his third 12 months, the quarterback’s willingness to run the ball, and accuracy when throwing, opens the door for his backs to take advantage of.
The mixture is lethal and figures to propel Arizona State to the highest of the Pac-12.
Mix in an skilled protection that’s regularly improved underneath Antonio Pierce, and the Sun Devils have the expertise to return to the Pac-12 Championship Game for the primary time since 2013.
If every part clicks, ASU may very well be knocking on the door of the Playoff with a victory over the North Division champion.
Worst Case Scenario
The regularly evolving stories of recruiting violations through the NCAA imposed COVID useless interval is simply too damaging for the ASU administration to abdomen, ensuing within the termination of Edwards and Pierce earlier than the season begins.
The lack of the leaders ship the marketing campaign right into a tail-spin, as opponents sense the weak spot on the Sun Devil sideline and play with an additional sense of urgency week-in and week-out.
The shock of the teaching change rears its head towards BYU, with extra defeats to UCLA, Stanford, Utah, USC, and Washington.
Though the 12 months ends with victories over Oregon State and Arizona, the 6-6 report and bowl look is bitter drugs that leaves the fanbase with a grudge towards the NCAA—one which lasts a long time.
But assuming the administration in Tempe holds regular, a shock-loss to both Stanford, UCLA, or BYU that leads to an eight-win season is arguably the ground for the Sun Devils in 2021.
What Should Happen
Pending an early determination from the administration, Daniels and the ASU protection ought to lead the workforce to a 9 or 10-win season.
The returning expertise on either side of the ball is sufficient to count on nothing worse than a second-place end within the South.
And the three former 4-star transfers, mixed with the 4 4-star freshmen recruits, ought to increase an already loaded roster.
The finish outcome needs to be a battle with Utah and USC for the divisional championship.
The matchup with the Utes is a tricky problem in Salt Lake City, however the contest towards the Trojans is favorable in Tempe.
The X-Factor within the race would possibly transform the highway recreation in Seattle. If the Sun Devils win two out of these three, the South needs to be theirs.
And behind a dashing assault that initiatives to steer the Pac-12 as soon as once more, ASU would possibly simply get it accomplished.
What Must Happen
Daniels’ profession touchdown-to-interception ratio is among the many greatest in all of school soccer. His ability in caring for the ball has led some to label the sophomore quarterback a dark-horse Heisman candidate.
Daniels’ continuous improvement would possibly look like a given, however the success of Arizona State’s season begins and ends together with his play.
Interceptions in pivotal moments may very well be the distinction between a South championship and a third-place end.
The California-native has confirmed his price via two seasons, however the highlight has by no means been brighter.
If Daniels has the very best season of his profession, it’s going to be robust for anybody to beat ASU.
The working backs in Tempe stand out from a roster in any other case loaded with expertise.
Trayanum and White determine to mix with Daniels to mild up opponents on the bottom, setting the tone from the opening play from scrimmage.
And underneath second-year offensive coordinator Zak Hill’s system, the trio ought to have much more success on the bottom this season.
Perhaps most significantly, 4 starters return alongside the offensive line.
Led by Dohnovan West, the unit figures to as soon as once more energy the Pac-12’s main dashing assault with the addition of North Carolina switch Triston Miller.
Yet, the Sun Devil protection as a complete could be its biggest power. Chase Lucas, Evan Fields, Merlin Robertson, and Jermayne Lole lead their respective place teams on a protection that lacks any obvious weaknesses.
And LSU switch Travez Moore ought to add much more expertise alongside the road.
After main the Pac-12 in factors allowed per recreation, the mixed power underneath Pierce’s command is arguably why expectations are so excessive in Tempe this season.
The lack of expertise on the large receiver place is arguably the one weak spot on the whole Arizona State roster.
The unit has younger expertise, together with three former 4-star recruits, and this system has a observe report of placing gamers on the place into the NFL.
But after the current departures of Frank Darby, Brandon Aiyuk, and N’Keal Harry, there isn’t an outlined chief to level to.
Utah switch Bryan Thompson has been added to the combination, as has tight finish and Oklahoma switch Jalin Conyers. And four-star freshmen wideout Junior Alexander ought to get a possibility.
Still, just one returning receiver on the ASU roster had multiple landing final season, and simply two had 100 yards receiving or extra.
If Arizona State goes to win the South, a heavy-hitter should emerge.
The administration and training workers’s dealing with of the NCAA investigation, and subsequent media stories, could be the distinction through the upcoming season.
Additional tales determine to be revealed as Week One approaches, ratcheting up the strain on the administration to take motion.
It’s no secret that groups underneath investigation are inclined to carry out worse because of the off-the-field noise, particularly when particular person coaches or gamers are singled out.
At the identical time, media stories have the potential to invigorate an already motivated roster.
If Edwards and his workers are in a position to develop the “Us vs. Everybody” mentality, the distractions off the sphere may flip to success on it.
The season begins with cupcake matchups towards Southern Utah and UNLV, adopted by the primary take a look at of the season on the highway towards BYU. A 3-0 mark in nonconference play is a transparent expectation.
Pac-12 play begins with winnable video games towards Colorado, UCLA, and Stanford.
With a gap slate like that, it’s not unreasonable to foretell a 6-0 begin, and a Top 10 rating by mid-October.
But issues get robust with a month-long stretch that includes battles with Utah, USC, and UW, with a showdown towards Washington State sandwiched within the center.
Anything can occur, however this stretch figures to outline the success of the season. A 3-1 report in these contests may very well be the ticket to the Championship Game.
The 12 months ends with a highway recreation at Oregon State and the standard Territorial Cup rivalry in Tempe.
Barring an unexpected harm to Daniels or fast motion by the Arizona State administration, an eight-win season may very well be the ground in 2021.
And if issues go as some count on, the Sun Devils may emerge with as many as 10 wins and a Pac-12 South Championship to their names.