By Steve Jansen
ASU running back Keegan Herring
2008 Pac-10 Predictions:
1. USC 2. Oregon 3. ASU 4. California 5. Oregon State 6. UCLA 7. Arizona 8. Washington State 9. Washington 10. Stanford
Arizona State Sun Devil football is another one of those topics. However, there isn't a ton of stuff going on until the team's season begins August 30 against NAU.
That’s. Why. I. Can’t. Wait. Another. Freaking. Day. (I’d like to take a moment to give a shout-out to the folks at AthlonSports as well as the intoxicating ESPN.com Pac-10 blog that Scottsdale-based scribe Tom Miller wonderfully composes. I don’t know what I would do without you.)
I praise my parents for my off-season anxiety. Soon after Mom and Dad moved to the Phoenix area in 1966, they began attending games at Sun Devil Stadium. During Frank Kush’s last season as head coach in 1979, I attended my first game at age 2. In 1982, my folks bought me a season ticket. Twenty-six years later, I still sit in that south end zone seat a section over from the ASU marching band.
And though I didn’t exist during the days of the Western Athletic Conference and “The Catch,” I’ve pretty much seen it all. Mike Schuh dropping the long snap on a game-icing punt attempt against the (groan) Arizona Wildcats in 1987, resulting in a 24-24 tie and the continuation of (double groan) “The Streak” (go here and fast forward to the 4:47 mark). Marmie’s Army. 19-0. Losing 35-7 to New Mexico State at home. Dirk (ugh) Koetter.
Following last year's 10-3 record and Pac-10 co-championship, I hope to see something I've never witnessed in this town, a continuous winner on the gridiron. I think that’s definitely possible, as long as second-year head coach Dennis Erickson continues to occupy an office at the Tempe campus.
However, I do have my worries. A Swiss cheese offensive line that yielded 5,000 sacks in 2007 makes me nervous. The health of proven and often-hotheaded senior quarterback Rudy Carpenter is a concern. ASU’s three decades of underachievement is a bad dream. USC is, plain and simple, a nightmare.
The Devils already scored a huge victory this year when they basically abandoned fall practices at Camp Tontozona (the team will scrimmage between the Payson pines on Saturday, August 16). I personally believe this is a good thing. I’ve been to Camp T. It’s charming and good enough for, say, high school passing league games. That’s about it.
I’m big into tradition, but I’m also into seeing a “ripe with potential” program finally making good on its capabilities. Keeping the players in town and inside the white, spaceship-esque bubble that has crept up just north of the Tempe Improv is a better football and business decision.
As far as the 2008 Devils, this is how I see the team shaping up.
*Six returning starters on offense and seven on defense.
*Carpenter will air it out to a talented cast of receivers, including senior Michael Jones, and juniors Kyle Williams and Chris McGaha.
*A D-line that’s anchored by the beastly junior Dexter Davis and senior Luis Vasquez.
*The DBs are pretty decent, including senior and NFL-prospect Troy Nolan as well as sophomore cornerback Omar Bolden (though the recent departure of backup safety Jeremy Payton stings a little).
*Sophomore placekicker/punter and Lou Groza Award winner Thomas Weber.
*5,000 sacks given up last year.
*Virtually zero strong prospects at tight end.
*Questionable team speed (see last year’s Turkey Day Bowl vs. USC).
*More challenging schedule compared to 2007.
The Devils will win nine or 10 games if . . .
*Carpenter is on his feet as much as possible (keeping any college kid vertical is always good).
*Slash-style tailback Keegan Herring (senior) and bruiser Dimitri Nance (junior) have holes to run through.
*The offense scores early and often. No more of that play-from-behind thingy. It’s cute and all, but makes for a seriously bad game plan. (When did cute ever win football games anyway?)
The Devils will struggle and spend the bowl season in Las Vegas, San Francisco, or Hawaii if . . .
*Carpenter re-injures his thumb or another part of his body due to poor pass protection.
*The team falters on the road, as its prone to do, especially in places like Corvallis, Los Angeles, and Berkeley.
The season’s most exciting moment . . .
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May very well occur beginning at 5:13 p.m. Saturday, September 20, when the Georgia Bulldogs — ranked first nationally by many preseason prognosticators — visit Sun Devil Stadium in a nationally televised tussle. There hasn’t been a game this huge in town since 2005 when another SEC powerhouse, LSU, stole a victory on account of a fancy rollout punt. (Remember what I said about cute? I rest my case.)
2008 ASU Football Schedule (key games in bold):
8/30: NAU 9/6: Stanford 9/13: UNLV 9/20: Georgia 9/27: Bye 10/4: @ California 10/11: @ USC 10/18: Bye 10/25: Oregon 11/1: @ Oregon State 11/8: @ Washington 11/15: Washington State 11/28: UCLA 12/6: @ Arizona