College Football Preview: The 2014 Arizona State Sun Devils
Arizona State Sun Devils 0-0
2014 College Football Preview
Odds to Win National Championship: 75-1 See the Latest Odds
Overview: The Arizona State Sun Devils had one of their most successful seasons in program history last year, as they won the Pac-12 South with a 10-4 record. Arizona State beat ranked teams such as Wisconsin, Washington and UCLA, proving that this team compete with the best of the best in a much improved Pac-12. In two seasons with the program, head coach Todd Graham has bumped his record up to a solid 18-9 overall and has reached two bowl games. Arizona State has to be excited for what the future holds for this program.
Offense: Much like last year, the Sun Devils are going to have one of the best offenses in the Pac-12, a conference that lives and breathes off of offensive success. Taylor Kelly returns at quarterback after being one of the most underrated players in the country last season. Kelly threw for 3,635 yards and 28 touchdowns, while rushing for 608 yards and nine touchdowns. He could take things to another level with this being his final season. While losing versatile running back Marion Grice is a big blow, the Sun Devils should be in good hands with D.J. Foster taking over, a back who scored 10 touchdowns last year in a limited role and averaged 5.4 yards per carry. And while there’s not a ton of depth at wide receiver, Jaelen Strong is one of the best in the country at his position and will have another big year. Needless to say, this offensive unit is as solid as they come.
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Defense: Defense is where the Sun Devils have some serious issues with a total of nine starters no longer on the team. The biggest losses of all are along the defensive line with Carl Bradford and Will Sutton, two of the top pass rushers in the conference a year ago. The Sun Devils also lost their top two tacklers in linebacker Chris Young and defensive back Alden Darby. Yikes. The good news is that Damarious Randall is an experienced defensive back and should help maintain a Arizona State secondary that racked up 21 interceptions last season. But besides that, this unit is a giant question mark. You’re sure to see a ton of young faces and guys learning on the fly, which always leads to hiccups early in the year. One player to watch is freshman linebacker D.J. Calhoun, who has the potential to start and become a beast over time.
Special Teams: Kicker Zane Gonzalez returns after drilling 25 of his 30 field goals last season, while punter Matt Haack is back after averaging a little over 38 yards per attempt. No worries here.
Outlook: I really liked Arizona State last season while nobody was paying attention and made a ton of money backing the team. I still like the Sun Devils this year mainly because of the offense, but the defensive issues are major. Every team loses talent year-to-year, but it’s the teams that lose nearly an entire starting unit that you have to be careful about. Arizona State should still continue to surprise and could push for eight or nine wins, but another trip to the Pac-12 title game may be a stretch.