The Arizona State Sun Devils finished under .500 in two of the last three seasons, including a 6-7 overall record last season and a 4-5 record in conference play that marked an end to Dennis Erickson’s five-year tenure as head coach in which his teams went a combined 31-30. Arizona State lost its final four regular season games and fittingly went down in flames in the MAACO Car Care Bowl with a 56-24 loss to Boise State.
Todd Graham spent only one rather uneventful year as Pittsburgh’s head coach before being tapped for the Arizona State job. The controversy that followed him from the way he left Western Pennsylvania in such a hasty fashion may come back to haunt him if the Sun Devils fail to turn things around in a hurry.
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Before coaching at Pitt, Graham spent four seasons at the helm at Tulsa and one season with Rice, making ASU his fourth head coaching job since 2006.
He has obviously convinced someone at the university that Arizona State will not be just another stepping stone in his career.
The Sun Devils had the 10th-ranked passing offense in the nation last season with Brock Osweiler behind center, but he has moved on to the NFL so it looks like the starting role this season will go to sophomore Mike Bercovici, who has thrown a total of three passes at the collegiate level.
Waiting in the wings is redshirt freshman Michael Eubank, who at 6-foot-5, 242 pounds, could easily step in and follow in Osweiler’s footsteps.
Fortunately, Arizona State should have a solid running game behind Cameron Marshall. The 5-foot-11, 223 pound senior led the team in rushing last season with 1,038 yards on 219 carries.
If the Sun Devils are going to have any chance to legitimately compete in the Pac-12 South with the likes of USC and even UCLA, they are going to have to tighten up a defense that gave up an average of 28.6 points a game last season, which ranked this unit 74th in Division IA in points allowed.
Graham employed a 3-4 scheme at his past coaching stopovers but added a twist in what he refers to as a Devilbacker, which is a combination outside linebacker/defensive end that allows the defense to switch back to a 4-3 in certain situations. If healthy, Junior Onyeali could be the perfect player to fill the role as the Devilbacker in this defense. Along with Carl Bradford, these two are Arizona State’s top two playmakers on this side of the ball.
2012 Arizona State Football Schedule
Arizona State kicks the 2012 season off with a home game against D-IAA Northern Arizona on Sept. 1 and then welcomes the Big Ten’s Illinois Fighting Illini to Tempe the following Saturday.
The Sun Devils take-on the SEC’s newest addition, the Missouri Tigers, before hosting Utah in their Pac-12 opener.
The final six weeks of the season could be make or break as far as getting over .500 with games against Oregon, USC, and Arizona included in the mix. They face the Ducks and Wildcats at home, but have to take on the Trojans on the road on Nov.10.
2012 Arizona State Futures Odds
Bovada has not posted odds for the Sun Devils to win this year’s national title, but it does have them at 50/1 to win the Pac-12 this season. Given the fact that USC is the 3/1 odds-on-favorite to win this year’s BCS Championship it is easy to see why the Trojans are ridiculous 1/6 favorites to win the South Division.
Arizona State is the fifth-favorite at 18/1 to win it. This team should remained focused on winning as many games as possible in 2012 as it is clearly a few seasons away from competing for the conference title.
2012 Arizona State Football Predictions
It is hard to know what to expect from the Sun Devils in 2012. With a head coaching change, no established starter at quarterback, and an entirely different scheme on defense, they could be in for a long year.
Graham has all the tools to turn this program around (if he sticks around long enough), but Arizona State takes a step backwards this season at 5-7.
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