2013-14 Arizona State Sun Devils Predictions and College Football Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 7/22/2013
There are a lot of coaches in college football who are tough to like. Todd Graham is right near the top of that list. Being less than thoroughly admirable doesn’t mean you can’t succeed, though — Urban Meyer has a couple of national titles and an undefeated season to his credit, after all. Graham is the ultimate opportunist, with Arizona State being his fourth college job since 2006. Despite his issues, though, in his second year with the Sun Devils he has a squad that will certainly be fun to watch. This team can do some real damage in the Pac-12.
Last year Graham lost to the five best teams on his schedule. That means there is a lot of work left to do. To his credit, though, three of those losses were close, and the team was consistently strong against the eight lesser opponents. They also broke a four-game losing streak to win their last three, including their bowl appearance.
The biggest change Graham brought to this squad was on defense. He made the unit far more aggressive and creative, and the results were dramatically improved. There are some changes that the secondary has to deal with, but it was the front seven that was the strength of this unit last season. That front seven is remarkably intact. Six of seven starters return, and every primary reserve is back. It’s an embarrassment of talent, and that should signal a defense that is at least as good as last year — assuming the secondary can at least find a way to provide reasonable competence. With experience, the run defense should improve as well.
Not every player thrives under Graham’s system, but QB Taylor Kelly certainly did. He came from essentially nowhere to be a thoroughly competent starter last year. With a year of experience under his belt, and a whole summer working with Graham’s system, all eyes will be on whether he can take a step forward. Of key importance will be developing some versatility. This team was quite strong on pure passing downs but far less sharp when there was an option. If Kelly can’t correct that issue then opposing teams will make it much harder for him this year than they did last year. With some progress from him, though, he is at the helm of what could be an aggressive, exciting offense.
Arizona State Schedule Analysis
Unlike some other teams in the Pac-12 this year, Arizona State really gets credit for some string nonconference scheduling. Opening against Sacramento State won’t challenge them — at least it had better not. The other two nonconference opponents are significantly more challenging, though. The Sun Devils host Wisconsin in the second week of the season and Notre Dame in Week 5. Winning both of those games would certainly quiet any critics of this team.
Between those two tough nonconference games they have equally tough conference tilts — at Sanford and against USC. Luckily, things get a bit easier for a while after those four games — if they can survive them. Colorado, Washington, Washington State and Utah are a much easier stretch of four games. But then things get tough again as they finish by hosting Oregon State, visiting UCLA, and hosting Arizona. If this team winds up with an impressive record they will certainly have earned it.
2013-14 Arizona State Sun Devils Betting Odds and Trends
Arizona State is a relative longshot to win the National Championship at +12500 — not surprisingly. They are the solid second choice to win the Pac-12 South at +300 and the third choice to win the Pac-12 at +600. (All odds are from BetOnline) Arizona State’s ATS record last year matched their overall record — 7-5. They went “under” the total six times in 11 tries.
2013-14 Arizona State Sun Devils Predictions and College Football Picks
I like the team, but I hate the schedule. There are six wins that are reasonably certain, but the other six games are just brutal. Going 2-4 against those six opponents would have to be viewed as a victory at this point in the development of the team. That means that the Sun Devils won’t meet expectations of those who see them as a ranked team at this point. This is very much a team for which you will have to pick your spots. If the front seven looks strong against the run in the Wisconsin game in Week 2 then I could upgrade my expectations slightly. However, I don’t see them as a true Pac-12 contender at this point. There are just too many hurdles in the schedule for them to overcome.
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