Different ways to look at ASU football’s preseason ranking

<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons above -->
                <div>
                    <a class="addthis_button" href="//addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=300" addthis:url='http://phxfan.com/2014/07/one-way-view-asu-footballs-pre-season-ranking/' addthis:title='Different ways to look at ASU football’s preseason ranking'>
                        <img src="//cache.addthis.com/cachefly/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/>
                    </a>
                </div>  There are a couple of different ways to look at the media’s projection for where Arizona State football will finish in the Pac-12 South Division this year, depending on […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
                <div>
                    <a class="addthis_button" href="//addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=300" addthis:url='http://phxfan.com/2014/07/one-way-view-asu-footballs-pre-season-ranking/' addthis:title='Different ways to look at ASU football’s preseason ranking'>
                        <img src="//cache.addthis.com/cachefly/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/>
                    </a>
                </div>

 

There are a couple of different ways to look at the media’s projection for where Arizona State football will finish in the Pac-12 South Division this year, depending on which side of the ball you consider most important to success.

The Sun Devils were picked to finish third, behind No. 1 UCLA and No. 2 USC, in yesterday’s preseason poll of the media that cover the conference.  Not surprisingly, the Oregon Ducks, which play in the North Division, were selected once again to win the conference title – which would be their fourth in five years.

But ASU’s selection at No. 3 in the South leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

The Devils are the reigning South Division champions and will be the only team in the Pac-12 to have a combination of returning quarterback that threw for more than 3,000 yards last season, a returning receiver that posted more than 1,000 yards, and a pair of ball carriers that combined for more than 1,000 yards rushing.

Redshirt senior Taylor Kelly is one of the most seasoned quarterbacks in the Pac-12; his 27 starts are third-most in the conference.  He threw for 3,635 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2013 to put him in third place in the school’s all-time single-season records.  Redshirt junior Jaelen Strong is a junior-college transfer that led last year’s team with 75 receptions for 1,122 yards to move him into fifth place in the school record books.  And a big chunk of  last season’s ground game returns with Taylor, who picked up 826 yards, and junior D.J. Foster, who added 517 yards – but also contributed another 653 yards receiving for 1,170 all-purpose yards.

So with a majority of last year’s offense returning, the Sun Devils should be able to score plenty of points.  That 2013 squad finished with 39.7 points per game, 10th-best in the country, and scored 556 total points, just six points shy of a school record set back in 1972.

At one point last year, the Sun Devils were ranked No. 11 nationally in both the AP Poll and the BCS standings.  They won 10 games against a schedule that was considered by some analysts to be the sixth-toughest in the nation.  And they won three of five games against Top 25 teams, scored 50+ points in each of six games, and hung 62 points on USC, which tied for the most scored against the Trojans – ever.

Oh yeah… head coach Todd Graham was selected as the Pac-12 Coach of the Year – and he’s returning, too.

Based on all that, you might argue that maybe ASU should have been given a little more respect by the media.

But then you take a quick look at the other side of the ball and realize that the Devils have lost nine starters from its defensive unit that was second in the country in interceptions and creating turnovers.  That defense outscored its opponents 146-42 on points off turnovers.

And they even contributed to the scoring.  With five interception returns for touchdowns and one safety, the ASU defense last year was directly responsible for 37 of the team’s point total.

That defense, however, is just a fond memory now, and Graham and his staff have been working through a major re-building job in the off-season.

So maybe ASU actually got a break from the media, and didn’t really deserve to be as high as No. 3.  It all gets kinda confusing when you look at the big picture.

We probably won’t find out how accurate this year’s prediction will be until the fourth game of the season, after they have had a chance to break in a new defense against Weber State, New Mexico, and Colorado.  Those teams finished last year with a combined 9-27 record and there wasn’t a winning record among them.

However, that fourth game will be against UCLA.  And that’s when the rubber meets the road.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)