What have you done for me lately?
The old saying rarely rings more true than in the world of college athletics.
For Todd Graham and his Arizona State football team 2015 will be an opportunity to raise the bar even higher. He has never backed away from his bold promise when taking the program over back in late 2011 to turn ASU into a football power. To this point Graham has, by past Sun Devil standards, over-delivered.
So will the success continue to spill into this fall?
“It’s a tough decision,” ESPN contributor and long-time college football writer Phil Steele told Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat in a phone interview Thursday morning. “This year six returning starters on offense but nine on defense. They’ve got a capable quarterback in Mike Bercovici.”
He also believes the Devils’ strength will be upfront with star senior center Nick Kelly and in the backfield with versatile D.J. Foster and young workhorse Demario Richard whose big game helped propel ASU to a Sun Bowl win over Duke back in December.
Steele, who has ASU slotted 29th in his pre-season poll, believes the Devils’ season will likely hinge on two key Pac-12 home games: September 26th against USC and a Thursday, October 29th game against the Oregon Ducks.
The task doesn’t get much easier on the road starting with a showdown against Kyle Allen and the Texas A&M Aggies in Houston on September 5th.
“In the [Pac-12] South you had five teams that finished ranked last year,” Steele explained. “Arizona State not only has to play USC and Oregon at home but they have to play UCLA and Utah on the road this year. It is a tough schedule.”
Steele says his modest pre-season prediction for the Sun Devils will bring a smile to the face of Graham who has thrived in the underdog role before.
“He wants to be picked sixth in the division,” Steele joked. “He uses it as a rallying cry for his team.”
The formula has been pretty magical so far.