Sports

Arizona State preview: Muddled South division creates opportunity (game-by-game predictions)


One nugget on Arizona State not mentioned below, but potentially significant to the end-game, is the shift in the cross-division schedule rotation.

Last year, ASU played Washington on the road, Oregon on the road and Stanford at home — and lost to all three by a combined 16 points.

This year, the Sun Devils miss Washington and Stanford and host Oregon.

Stanford’s off, Cal’s on.

UW’s off, Washington State’s on.

Based on what we think we know, those swaps stand as a net positive for a program that must replace its most important pieces, receiver N’Keal Harry and quarterback Manny Wilkins.

(Links to other installments of the season preview series at bottom.)

ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS

2018 record: 7-6/5-4

Program trending: Up.

Granted, the bottom line — at least in conference play — isn’t positive: Arizona State went 6-3 in Todd Graham final season and 5-4 in Herm Edwards’ first season and, as we see it, is unlikely to do better than 5-4 in Edwards’ second season. But other factors (facility projects, staff hires, style of play) are trending in the right direction. Can ASU take advantage while the momentum is in place and the opportunity at hand? It’s difficult to envision both USC and UCLA remaining in their current states for long. As soon as one of them self-corrects, the path to the South title narrows significantly.

Coach: Herm Edwards (second year)

Edwards’ five-year win total: 4-9-4-2-7 (first four in the NFL, back in the 00s)

Contract status: Signed through 2022

Seat temperature: Chilled.

We won’t begin to guess whether Edwards coaches through the remaining four years of his contract and re-ups with the Sun Devils — but because he’s 65, not because he’s in danger of dismissal. He has full support from president Michael Crow and athletic director Ray Anderson, his longtime friend and former business partner. And that support figures to remain in place until Edwards himself decides it’s time to step away. What’s more, he displayed a steady hand while facing immense scrutiny following his unusual hire and decade away from the sideline. Rather than feeding the narrative, he pancaked it.

Key staff addition: Shaun Aguano

The obvious call here would be Marvin Lewis, the former longtime NFL coach who joined ASU’s staff as a special advisor, mentor and conveyor of wisdom. But Lewis isn’t an active coach or recruiter. Aguano is both, and he’s an active recruiter where ASU needs help the most: in metropolitan Phoenix. Aguano spent eight years in charge of Chandler High School and was hired to improve the Devils’ retention rate with top homegrown talent, in addition to coaching the running backs. (More on the recruiting issue here.)

Breakout star: Brandon Aiyuk

Considered true freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels, who was named the starter earlier this week, then decided Daniels was a bit obvious for our liking. But Aiyuk’s mention here requires context: He’s a senior, not an underclassman; and he played regularly last season (33 catches, four touchdowns). Our expectation, however, is that with increased opportunity created by Harry’s departure, Aiyuk morphs into one of the …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports

      

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