Returning Starters – Offense: 7 Defense: 9
Preview: The Sun Devils are coming off a successful 2014 campaign as they went 10-3 overall with a win coming over Duke in the Sun Bowl. Outside of a blowout home loss to UCLA at home, ASU could have potentially made a run to the college playoff if they hadn’t slipped up late in the year against Oregon State and Arizona. With 16 players returning the Sun Devils are expected to compete at a high level again in 2015.
Arizona State isn’t expected to take a step back under center despite losing QB Taylor Kelly who’s one of the top players in the program’s history. Veteran QB Mike Bercovici will take over the full time job after showing off his arm during last season when Kelly was injured. ASU is expected to focus more on the run game this year despite not having a mobile QB. The Sun Devils do however have three capable backs ready to carry the load. The pass game has question marks with the O-line needing to replace their 2 tackles from a season ago along with WR Jaelen Strong moving on to the NFL. The Sun Devils did pick up transfer WR Devin Lucien from UCLA which will help.
The Sun Devils lost some key pieces on defense with Hardison and Randall moving on, but it’s not a major issue given 9 returning starters are back mixed in with many solid recruits that are ready to step in. ASU’s strength comes in the backend with talent and depth, along with experience coming back in both the secondary and LB corps. The question marks come up front with a lack of a premier pass rusher. Don’t expect Graham to go conservative however as he’ll continue to find ways to dial up the blitzes.
Prediction: Many are high on Arizona State this season and if the defense plays up to an elite level this squad has the ability to repeat the success they had a season ago. Arizona State gets a huge test right out of the gate as they take on Texas A&M in a primetime showcase. Arizona State has a very tough schedule especially early on in conference play with 4 of their first 5 conference games coming against USC, UCLA, Utah, and Oregon. With tremendous competition and question marks in the pass game ASU will probably come up short of the Pac-12 title game.
Projected Record: 9-3 (7-2)