Welcome to the second edition of The Figgis Forum. As a quick reminder, this is intended as a fan-driven season preview for each PAC-12 team. As the season draws near and excitement grows with the opening of fall camp, we’re taking a stroll in the shoes of our fellow Pac brethren. Today, that stroll takes us along E Veterans Way in Phoenix, Arizona to the gates of Sun Devil Stadium.
All-Time Record: 600-382-24 (.608%)
National Championships: 0
Conference Championships: 17
Bowl Games: 29
Bowl Record: 14-14-1 (.500%)
Consensus All-Americans: 18
NFL Draft Picks: 242
1st Round Draft Picks: 24
Weeks in AP Poll: 280
Weeks at #1: 0
All-Time Record: 16-19
Longest Win Streak: 9 Games (1966-1988)
Longest Losing Streak: 10 Games (2005-Current)
Largest Margin of Victory: 59-14 (2003
Largest Margin of Defeat: 13-48 (2006)
Last Meeting: 2016 (L 35-54)
Arizona State has had quite a tumultuous history with a long run of sustained success from the mid-1950’s until the mid-1980’s. However, since 1987 the Sun Devils have had six seasons with a win percentage higher than 0.700, two of which have come in the past four years. In that same span, they have finished below 0.500 ten times. Bruce Snyder led ASU to an 11-1 record in 1996 in the midst of his 9-years at the helm. Their lone loss came to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl by just three points (they were actually leading 17-14 with 1:47 left to play). After that year, Snyder’s next four teams went 9-3, 5-6, 6-6 and 6-6. Dirk Koetter took over in 2001 and lasted 6 seasons going a combined 40-34.
Then along came Dennis Erickson, claiming at least a share of two national titles with The U in 1989 and 1991. This would be his third and final head coaching position in the PAC-10/12. In his first season, the Sun Devils started the year unranked and rattled off eight straight wins, climbing up to number six in the nation before losing to number four Oregon in Eugene. They finished the season 10-3 after a loss in the Holiday Bowl to Texas. In the next four years, Erickson finished below 0.500 three times and an even 6-6 once.
This led to the high-profile hiring of “this is my dream job” Todd Graham. For those who don’t remember, less than one year after being hired as the head coach of Pitt, Graham accepted the job at ASU and informed his players of his departure by having a text forwarded to them the next day. Things were off to a quick start for Graham, going 8-5 his first season and then playing in the PAC-12 Championship Game and finishing 10-4 in his second. In 2014 ASU had their first string of consecutive 10-win seasons since having four straight from 1970-73. Since then, things have taken a turn for the worse as the Sun Devils have finished 6-7 and 5-7 in the past two seasons. Coming into 2017, Graham is another PAC-12 coach on the hot seat who very likely needs to reach a bowl game to keep his job.
Fan Q & A
For the following section, I would like to thank Josiah from House of Sparky for taking the time to answer my questions and give his perspective on the upcoming season.
What win total would constitute a successful season? What bowl game?
After two losing seasons, a 7-5 or above season would be a success. Tempe would be happy. Realistically, as long as this team makes a bowl game. Las Vegas Bowl or Cactus Bowl.
What win total would constitute a failed season? What bowl game?
Repeating another 5-7 season or even worse. Worst bowl game would be no bowl game.
What are you most optimistic about this coming season?
The running game and the quarterbacks. Kalen Ballage is practically an NFL RB and the combo with Demario Richard is deadly. Manny Wilkins may win the starting job, but Alabama transfer Blake Barnett could be a major weapon is Wilkins gets hurt or is too inconsistent.
What are you most apprehensive about this season?
The defense. Arizona State's passing defense ranked last in the nation in 2016 and lost starting cornerbacks Kareem Orr to transfer and Armand Perry retired due to injury.
What do you expect to be the toughest game?
Week nine against USC.
What could be a potential trap game?
Week 12 at Oregon State.
Are there any injury or depth concerns heading into the season?
Brady White. Formerly the No. 4 rated pocket passer QB in the nation out of high school is out with a foot injury that happened last year against UCLA. He may be back during the season.
Who do you think will win each division?
Washington in the north and USC in the south. They're clear favorites, but I'll stick with them. The two teams have the best QB's in the conference.
Who will come in last in each division?
Arizona in the south. Oregon State in the north.
How do you think your in-state rival will finish?
0-12. No, just kidding! The Wildcats will wear a 3-9 record with wins over Northern Arizona, UTEP and Oregon State.