2017 Prespring Rankings: No. 42 Arizona State Sun Devils
The 2017 prespring college football rankings, taking the first look at the Arizona State Sun Devils
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No. 42: Arizona State Sun Devils
Arizona State Sun Devils Prespring Status
After a disastrous finish with six straight losses, closing out with a blowout nightmare against rival Arizona, this might come close to being a make-or-break season for head coach Todd Graham. He’s not on a hot seat quite yet, but if it looks like ASU is on the way to a third straight losing campaign, the rumblings will be there.
Fortunately for ASU, seven starters are back on offense, not including Alabama transfer Blake Barnett, who’ll challenge Manny Wilkins for the starting quarterback gig. Even better, nine starters are back on a defense that needs to be night-and-day better after getting crushed over the finishing kick, allowing a whopping 203 points over the final four games. Even so …
Arizona State Sun Devils Biggest Issue
The kicking game starts over. Of course the defense has to be better after finishing dead last in the nation against the pass, and was the second-worst overall – that’s the biggest problem that’ll be the focus throughout spring ball. However, ASU has to replace a special pair of kickers, losing P Matt Haack, who averaged close to 44 yards per kick for a punting game that finished fifth in the nation. All PK Zane Gonzalez did was win the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best kicker, nailing 23-of-25 field goal attempts.
Arizona State Sun Devils Biggest Positive
The ground game should be better. The Sun Devils got into way too many shootouts, abandoning the run at times when it was 1) painfully ineffective and/or 2) became more about the passing attack. Karen Ballage, though, is a decent power runner, coming off a 14-touchdown season, while Demario Richard returns after coming up with a team-leading 593 yards. The top three running backs return, but the O line – despite the loss of solid LT Evan Goodman – has to do its job after paving the way for just over three yards per carry.
Really, Why Are The Arizona State Sun Devils Ranked Here?
There has to be a turnaround under Graham – the program is overdue. After overachieving a bit in the first few years, ASU underachieved over the last two. This team is too experienced and has too many good weapons to continue being so mediocre. It might not be good enough to take the Pac-12 South, but it should be able to hold its own against USC, Colorado and UCLA – and beat Arizona.