Not that long ago, there weren’t many Arizona State football fans willing to jump on board the ‘Herm Train.’
Now, after the Sun Devils upset then-No. 15 MIchigan State and then finished a sweep of the California schools with Saturday’s win over UCLA, it’s standing-room-only as first-year head coach Herm Edwards adds new believers with each new win.
When Edwards was hired last December, it was also announced that the athletic department would begin working under what it called the New Leadership Model, which is similar to an NFL approach that uses a general-manager structure. The 30-year coaching veteran spent pretty much his entire career in the NFL, eight years as a head coach.
You could hear the snickers from the other Pac-12 schools and feel the angst within the ASU fan base.
The whole idea of blending college and the pro game raised more than a few eyebrows at the time. And it was being introduced by a man who hadn’t coached at the college level since 1989 when he was an assistant at San Jose State. So it’s not difficult to understand the skepticism. There were plenty who wanted to take a wait-and-see approach to getting behind their new coach.
Those eyebrows now are being raised for a different reason, as Edwards is leaving many of his doubters wide-eyed at what he is accomplishing in his coaching debut in Tempe.
ASU is 6-4 overall and can control its own destiny on its path to a Pac-12 conference title. The Devils are in first place in the South Division at 4-3 and just need two more wins to win their division, next week against Oregon and the regular-season finale against rival University of Arizona.
The sweep of both USC and UCLA in the same season has only happened five times in the history of the ASU football program.
Saturday’s 31-28 victory over the Bruins also means the Sun Devils are bowl-eligible. And possibly a respectable, mid-level bowl. Most bowl selection committees are going to look at the full body of work when considering extending an invitation and ASU has been competitive all season long. The Devils lost each of their four games by just seven points — and have knocked off two Top-20 teams along the way, Michigan State and Utah, which was ranked No. 16 at the time.
The UCLA win made it three straight, the first time an ASU team has strung that many together since the beginning of the 2016 season, and seems to show that this edition of the Sun Devils is a team that has found its footing and is in an offensive rhythm. Over the last three games, the Devils have averaged 475 yards of total offense per game, peaking at 536 against Utah.
And this team features a three-headed monster that has been hard for the opposition to contain. Senior quarterback Manny Wilkins has already thrown for 2,449 yards and is completing 65 percent of his passes, senior running back Eno Benjamin has rushed for 1,295 yards and 12 TDs, and junior wide receiver N’Keal Harry will likely break the 1,000-yard receiving mark in Saturday’s game against Oregon.
The trio is averaging a combined 466 yards of offense over the last three wins and has accounted for 37 touchdowns in 10 games.
Regardless of how the final two games go, this ASU team is one of those opponents no team wants to draw in a bowl game.
The Herm Train is turning into an express.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)